In case of emergency - rethink your category

What segment should you be competing in? Carefully reassessing that could bring about some surprising growth.

Lately we've been doing a fair amount of work helping clients reframe their categories.

It can happen that a business outgrows their category, or the category itself becomes less viable over time. For example the photocopy machine category (dominated by Xerox) was big in the 1980s...not so much today. Microsoft built their business by leading the desktop operating system category, but outgrew that and has gone on to achieve dominance in many aligned categories since then.

Knowing when and how to rethink your category is tricky. Chop and change to much and you don't build traction. Hold on too long and you end up becoming king of a segment that nobody cares about anymore.

Unfortunately most category interrogation work takes place when there is an emergency, but it really doesn't have to be that way.

It's for this reason that strategy work is not something that should be reserved for one occasion every year. Consciously assessing the vibrancy of your category and the position you hold in it is an ongoing thing. While doing futures thinking for your business is vital, it's equally as important to do some kind of scenario planning exercise for your category over a five-year time horizon as well. Crafting a series of possible, probable and preferable futures for the industry that you are a part of will also give you a broader view of where things might be going for everyone and what your own placement within that complex mix may look like.

What we often find is that a serious category review is long overdue for a number of organisations. Even industries that are seemingly future-orientated can quickly get themselves stuck in outdated visions of what typically defines the category. By redefining the playing area and opening up the mental landscape of just where an organisation is competing - you can often unlock untold amounts of creative thinking and innovation in the process.

Apple did it well when they stopped thinking of themselves as just another desktop computer brand; it was from that moment that they began to see that they could revolutionise and win in a whole new emerging consumer electronics segment.

Yuppiechef at first defined themselves as a technology company; it was after they shifted that focus to competing rather as a retailer that opening physical stores became a priority, Customer accessibility of the brand improved greatly along with revenue and profitability.

Right now we can think of numerous industry segments that are primed for retirement, but as yet nobody has taken the opportunity to reframe the outcomes that the category produces and followed through with action. It's only a matter of time until somebody does and all hell breaks loose for everyone else whose caught napping.


What business are you in?
This clear lens is vital for improving efficiencies, unlocking profitability and a key reason as to why the implementation of strategic plans fail.