how category growth can help your brand

November 25, 2013



How category growth can help your brand

Bake a bigger pie, get a bigger slice. That’s the intention behind a category growth strategy.

Sometimes, category growth – which also helps your competitors – is the most effective route to increasing your own sales. If you don’t see the benefit of inviting everyone to the party occasionally you could be missing out and ultimately the fear of mutual gain could be holding back your profits. So exactly how does category growth benefit brands, and how do the big players build it into their marketing strategies.

Welcome to the mutual future

A recent ad for Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch features a montage of similar products – snapshots of science fiction TV shows and cartoons from the past five decades of popular culture. With future visions of smart watches from The Flintstones to Get Smart to Star Trek, the heart of the ad is this: we’ve finally created the piece of technology everyone’s been dreaming of since the fifties.

But to what extent does the ad drive the category, rather than the specific Samsung product? And is this actually a smart move to make? The end shot of a young woman talking into her Galaxy Gear smart watch joins seamlessly onto the rollout of previously fictitious versions. And perhaps that’s the point – this piece of technology is simply the manifestation of something we’ve all assumed would come around eventually.

In some regard the ad fails to position the Samsung product from any unique selling point. Throw an Apple product and logo on the end and it would still have worked. And yet, at the same time the ad does a great job of generating conversation around the category and driving category growth.

When is it preferential to grow the market?

When you’re a leader in it, for a start. Having a large market share when there are only a handful of players in your category can mean there’s little room to move and the only way to grow your sales is to grow everyone else’s. If you’re a big enough player, your percentage advantage will work in your favour here. Gaining a bigger slice of that bigger pie makes perfect sense even if you’re bringing others along for the profitable ride.

Some of the larger brands can’t help but sell their category, purely by the scale of their market presence. To some extent every Coke ad sells the whole beverage aisle. I see a beach full of insouciant youths quenching themselves with Coke and I think of buying Coke. Then I remember I don’t particularly like Coke, so I go buy something else instead. Like the moon and the tides the shear weight of these brands pulls the category along with them.

Eliminating barriers to purchase

Your product might actually be the amazing bringer of eternal bliss you claim it is, but if it’s a product in a category nobody considers buying, you’re on a road to nowhere. This is particularly true when the category is new. Educating consumers is key here, the goal being to change the conversation from, ‘Do I need a WiFi-enabled cheese-grater?’ to, ‘Which WiFi-enabled cheese-grater do I need?’

So for Samsung’s futuristic watch ad, maybe advertising the category was the smartest move. After all, you have to convince people that buying (and wearing in public) any smart watch is an ok thing to be doing in the first place, before you can begin convincing them to choose yours.

A few tips for marketing a category:

  • Don’t do it if your product is inferior. There’s no point inviting the world to the party if your undercooked lasagna is destined to be the last dish left on the buffet table.
  • Your messaging should focus less on your own specific product benefits and more on the wider benefits of the category to encourage uptake – allowing you to then refocus on your own unique product features and capitalising on the increased market further down the track. Better still, integrate both these strategies to run concurrently.
  • If you have little or no brand presence, you’re unlikely to gain anything – without being in the consideration set you may as well hand over your media budget to your competitors. Ensure there are enough consumers aware of your offering first.

Watch the Samsung Galaxy Gear ‘A long time coming’ Ad here: