Push the Envelope…Create a Category


"I agree, it is much more important today than ever before to push the envelope!"

Go beyond selling products and building a brand.

Everybody wants to sell products and build a great brand…right? The best way to do this is to push the envelope of your thinking to sell solutions and create a category.

If you go beyond products to sell solutions, and if you create a new category for these solutions, you will discover new ways to build your brand and create the greatest enterprise value.

Why Solutions?

People don’t really want things — they want a solution that delivers a desired experience, such as one that solves a problem for them.

As Scott Bedbury, former head of marketing for Nike and later Starbucks, said…“A product is an artifact around which an experience is created.”

Think about it. People don’t want rubber shoes, they want the experience of flying down the basketball court like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant…or to at least to feel like they could do that when they wear their Nikes.

Even people who buy industrial products don’t want things. They want solutions.

A chemical company we worked with sold chemical solvents to clean industrial machinery. The problem they were facing was that their customers weren’t handling the solvents properly, they were wasting them and flushing them into the water system — costing a lot of money. The solvent maker came to realize that the solution their customers sought was “clean machines”. So they changed their business model. They quit selling solvents and started selling “clean”. They set up a service to clean client machines and correctly recycle the solvents. The recycling saved money, the chemical company made more revenue from selling solutions and their customers were happier.

Think beyond products to experiences and solutions.

Why Lead a Category?

Category creators and leaders gain the upper hand and the biggest pay-offs. They also open themselves to greater opportunity.

You don’t have to look far to see this is true. At the top of the largest market cap list of companies is Apple. It doesn’t just make products, it opens new categories with its innovations…iPod, iPhone, iPad and iCloud. Their whole systems innovative solutions focus, coupled with category leadership, enabled them to leap beyond old definitions of computers and allowed them to keep expanding the boundaries of the category. In turn Apple continually wins top honors as a most admired brand.

Go through your favorite list of most admired brands…Amazon, Facebook, IBM, P&G, and you will find that they are category creators, expanders and re-inventors. Next explore where you can reframe and redirect your energies to providing solutions and leading a category that you have defined. Then enjoy the expansion of your product sales and the growth of your brands value to your customers. 

To explore this topic further, go to our previous blog, Avoid Business Model Myopia and Build a Category Leading Brand. Then take a look around your industry or field and discover where you have opportunities to focus on solutions and create an expanding category.

Dan & Meredith Beam, Principals, BEAM, inc., San Francisco