[L/M NET] Tom Fishburne > “low interest category”

(L/M NET features Tom's inspiring posts on a regular basis.)

There are no low interest categories. Only low interest brands.

That’s the main lesson I took away from five years at method. Even in a category as mundane as household cleaning products, you can create a brand with deep emotional connections.

Marketers often limit ourselves by the conventional rules of a particular category. When we first join a brand team, we go through an indoctrination process that dispels our previously held beliefs and teaches us the rules of the category. We learn the insider acronyms, the same consumer insights, the shopper decision trees, the tried-and-true promotion vehicles.

The rules of the category blinder and constrain us. They bias us toward the same-old, same-old. Everyone in the category knows the category rules, so the category evolves into a sea of sameness. Defining a category as low interest is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Consumers don’t know the category rules. General Mills CMO Mark Addicks once said that the most valuable members of a brand team are the ones who had just joined, because of their fresh eyes. He counseled us to fill in notebooks with our thoughts and observations before we learned anything about the categories we were about to join. Category knowledge can become baggage.

The rules of the consumer trump the rules of the category.

(ralf says: Not only don't consumers know the category rules, they define their own. And the most important one: there is no formal market definition. Consumers don't know Nielsen, and friends, they just know (intuitively) their own individual, independent, and impatient Informal Markets Matrix. Eg. they are not limited by the company definition of micro-compact cars, they compare them with the bike, the motobike, the bus, train, etc.! Car companies not getting that will fail.)

Tom, when not cartooning (eg. for Marketing Week), is method's international managing director. Based in London, he frequently speaks at campuses, companies, and conferences about marketing, cartooning, and how to spread business ideas. Twitter: @tomfishburne