We liked our conversation with James so much that we decided to talk about category design again. This time with John Rougeux, VP of Marketing Strategy at BombBomb.

What you’ll learn on this episode:

  • What is category design, and what is the benefit
  • When does category design make sense to pursue, and when it doesn’t
  • The time horizon for a category design initiative
  • The impact of category design on the various teams within your organization
  • How to get the right information from customers to drive the category definition and messaging language
  • How to build experiences that bring the category to life
  • How to get the leadership team and the whole company on board and excited about the work
  • How a category can be redefined

John’s Recommendations:

  1. You don’t want to be in a position where you are trying to convince someone that category design is the way to go. You should be discussing the overarching business objectives and constraints.
  2. There needs to be a real challenge with where you are today as a business, to make pursuing category design make sense.
  3. You need to get an agreement on the problem (that your category solves) before you can talk about the solution.
  4. Create a “lightning strike” contest to get everyone involved and excited.
  5. Trust your intuition – not everything in marketing can be measured – do the things that other companies aren’t willing to do.
  6. Build a close relationship with your CEO because category design needs to be led from the top.

You’ll need to listen to the full episode if you want to hear the Lightning Round, but here are a few highlights:

  • John hates the word “personalization” because it has lost its meaning
  • John is looking forward to testing out how marketers sending out personalized videos to all inbound leads will impact revenue.

Proofpoint’s POV:

We’ve already talked about category design on episode 7 with James Ricks, so to not repeat anything from that episode, something interesting to consider and dive into some more would be where does category design not make sense.

The main thing to remember, as John mentioned in our conversation, is that category design is a business strategy, and that to start you need to understand what the business objectives and constraints are.

So something to consider is that there are some types of businesses where category design isn’t really that feasible. Specifically, I am thinking about service businesses. There are only so many categories of services and most of them are fairly commoditized and often any new category is driven by external factors and/or technology vendors. The closest thing you can do in service categories is to niche down into a particular vertical or service sub-type, but it’s hard if not impossible to create a new category of service.

The other thing to mention is that not every business needs to be a leader in a category to be successful. For example, if you are building a lifestyle business, you only need to have a small slice of the market to drive enough revenue. In a similar vein, if your business objective is to create a small to mid-sized company and get it acquired by a larger competitor, then you again don’t really need to create a new category.

A bit more about John:


John is an entrepreneur and a category design practitioner and consultant. He founded and sold his former company Causely. He runs a category design blog and consulting company called Flag and Frontier and has been heading up marketing strategy for BombBomb for the past year and a half. Last but not least, and I am not sure how we forgot to ask John about this during the show… he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail after college!


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