Branding Basics #8: Law of the Category


According to The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, a brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus. 

For a refresher on why, check out Branding Basics #2: Law of Contraction. This is the eighth article in our Branding Basics Series, The Law of the Category. 

If a brand becomes stronger by narrowing the focus, what happens when you narrow it so much that there’s no longer any market for it?  The best possible situation happens, because you’ve just created a new category.  And when your brand is first in a new category, it becomes the leading brand.

Here are a few examples:

  • Domino’s was the first home delivery pizza chain.
  • Gatorade was the first sports drink.
  • Red Bull, the first energy drink.

Typically, people think of branding in terms of catching a bigger share of an existing market. But really, the most efficient and productive use of branding is all about starting something new, just like Domino’s, Gatorade and Red Bull.

So, how do you build something out of nothing, a new brand in a non-existent category?

  1. At launch, make sure everybody knows you’re first. The pioneer, the leader, the original!
  2. Promote the new category.

For more about this part of the process, learn about how The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick grew her company through amazing free PR in Branding Basics #3: Law of Publicity.

Agenda_08_Branding_Basics_Law-of-the-category_GatoradeThe thing is, people don’t care about new brands – they care about new categories. Nobody cared about Domino’s Pizza, the brand, in the early 1960’s. People cared that they could have hot, restaurant quality pizza delivered to their home. Just by ordering over the telephone!

Gatorade focuses on youth who live an active lifestyle and wish to enhance their athletic performance. Marketing informs us that the sports drink “Thirst Quencher” replenishes the water, electrolytes, and carbohydrates lost during physical activity. According to Beverage Digest (via Market Realist), Gatorade had 69.5% market share of the US sports drinks market in 2013. Their closest competitor Powerade had 28.8% market share.

When competition arrives, as it does, the brand should promote the category and increase the size of the pie, rather than focusing on increasing only their slice of the pie.  The Gatorade brand focuses on High School Sports in America.  Back in 1985, The Gatorade Player of the Year award was established to “recognize and celebrate the nation’s most outstanding high school talents for their athletic achievement, academic excellence and exemplary character.”  Gatorade makes sure all young athletes connect the brand with “one of the most prestigious accolades in high school sports”.  And, to re-enforce their status as the leader of the sports drink industry, they use top-tier celebrity athletes in its marketing campaigns (Eli & Peyton Manning, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, etc.).

That is how you do it.

Takeaway from Law of the Category

“A leading brand should promote the category not the brand.”