The Episode in 60 Seconds
Change. Nothing is so constant as change.
Technology is often the force that brings about change.
When technology changes the way we accomplish simple or complex tasks, there’s a gap in understanding. People have a hard time getting from/to—from where they are to the new reality.
Marketing leaders create the translation layer for users by designing new categories.
On this edition of Studio CMO, we dive into:
- What is category design?
- What Zoom did to be different
- Category design, at its core, is not marketing
- Would you like to be a Pepper?
- Inside a "lightning strike"
Kevin Maney is a bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is co-author of the book Play Bigger, and has been an A-list writer and thinker about technology for 25 years at multiple outlets including being a contributing editor at Conde Nast Portfolio, and as a columnist, editor and reporter at USA Today.
Kevin’s most recent book is UnHealthcare: A Manifesto for Health Assurance, which proposes a new category of healthcare. It is co-authored with Hemant Taneja of General Catalyst and Stephen Klasko, CEO of Jefferson Health. Kevin and Hemant also co-authored the 2018 book Unscaled: How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future.
He also writes music for and plays in a New York band, Total Blam Blam. (Stay around for the end of the episode for a track from the band.)
Mike Damphousse brings a hard-nosed, pragmatic aspect to category design, baked in from two decades as a company founder, CEO, CMO and sales executive. He understands how companies work and how to take a category plan from concept to implementation.
Mike was most recently founder and CEO/CMO of Green Leads, which introduced the pipeline generation category. He was previously CMO of Asteria, a data integration software company which went public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
When technology comes into a world and it changes the way things are done, what happens is there's a gap that occurs and understanding, and that gap is really difficult for people to cross. That's where the world of category comes in. - John Farkas
A great example of category creation occurred when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPad.
Category design is identifying a problem and delivering a solution that addresses the problem in a new way. Sometimes, category design occurs when a solution solves a problem users didn't even know they had.
People think in terms of categories. That's the way we sort out a world full of lots of, lots of choices. - Kevin Maney
Category design has a way of creating proprietary eponyms. Think Kleenex, Clorox, Phillips Head Screwdriver, Band Aid, and Jacuzzi... and now Zoom.
Find out more about Eddie Yoon and Superconsumers.
In a world of "Coke and Pepsi," be Dr. Pepper.
Read the history of "Be a Pepper" on the official site of the Dr. Pepper Museum.
Subscribe here to get a sneak peak every week.
Mark Whitlock (00:05):Welcome to Studio CMO I’m Mark Whitlock. Thanks for joining us on the podcast where we look at the biographies of those who lead marketing in the BDB tech space. And we break down their marketing successes so that you can learn from them and apply them to your business. Our host is John Farkas, the CEO of Golden Spiral.
John Farkas (00:23):Greetings everybody.
Mark Whitlock (00:25):And our cohost is Angus Nelson, our director of development, and the hashtag maker himself.
Angus Nelson (00:29):Hello, Hello!
Mark Whitlock (00:30):And John we’re diving into one of the most difficult to implement, but easy to understand areas of marketing that we’ve run across time and time again with our clients.
John Farkas (00:43):Here’s the deal. Technology is a force in our world and it creates change and, and change is an interesting thing. A lot of people say they like change, but when it comes down to it, change is really difficult to embrace. And when technology comes into a world and it changes the way things are done, what happens is there’s a gap that occurs and understanding, and that gap is really difficult for people to cross. You have the way things were and you have the way things are or becoming or ought to be. And people generally have a hard time getting from A to B, getting from two, and that’s where the world of category comes in. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. We’re talking about the idea of creating a category, which is the translation layer. It’s the way people can begin to understand the new way. And it’s the work of framing and understanding of where we are now and where things need to go in the future or where things, what is possible to do now as a result of the new technology and what is true.
John Farkas (02:04):And what I’ve seen happen over and over again is people either, A, do not understand that what they need is to frame that understanding, or if they do understand they need it, they underestimate what it’s going to take to get there. Because framing that new understanding too. I mean, we love it because we’re in the technology where we’ve spent the last three, four, or five, six years of our lives building to this moment. And then here we are, we have tons of context. We have tons of familiarity and tons of assumptions about how wonderful it is for what we have to bring forward. And the reality is nobody’s ready for it. Yet. We have to, we have to tell the story. We have to bring them along. We have to give them a clear idea of where we are now and where we’re going. And nobody in my mind has done a better job of articulating what that takes. Then the authors of Play Bigger. And we are privileged to have some folks that swim in that stream all the time, uh, joining us here today.
Angus Nelson (03:12):Well, that sounds like a great segue for me to step up to the plate today. We have two guesets joining us here on the show. The first is the bestselling author, award-winning columnist, and category designer. And he’s got 22 years as a technology columnist at USA today in his arsenal, which has helped him to coauthor the book, as John was saying, Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets as well as many other books. But his most recent book is actually a great example of this category creation. It’s called UnHealthcare: A Manifesto for Health Assurance. Our second guest brings a hard-nosed, pragmatic aspect to category design baked in from two decades as a company, founder, CEO, COO, and sales executive. And he was most recently founder and CEO|CMO of green leads, which created the category of performance based demand generation. And before that he was CMO of infoterra, please. Welcome to studio CMO, Kevin Maney and Mike Damphousse.
John Farkas (04:16):Welcome guys. We’re glad you’re here. Yeah. Well, thanks. Thanks for having us. So let me just, I’ll throw this question out to both of you guys, but if you were to define category, a nice pithy definition of, of what a category is, especially as it pertains to the universe here of business to business technology, how would you put that together? How would you frame it for us?
Kevin Maney (04:38):Simply put basically a category is a problem to be solved and in our experience as either a problem that, um, people have always known they’ve had, but didn’t know that they could solve it in some new and interesting way, uh, or what is really kind of interesting twist on it is when you describe the people probably didn’t even know they had. Um, and, uh, one of the stories we often tell we’re presenting about this in that category of category creation, um, was when Steve jobs introduced the iPad and, um, you know, tablets had been around for ages by that point in time, um, they had always been described as basically a computer, a laptop you could write on and most people didn’t have any idea what you’re going to do with this thing. And the jobs came along and, and got up on stage when he introduced the iPad and basically explained, he said, we’re, we’ve, we’ve entered this new age of digital media, we’re consuming movies and books, and use a mic on, on these digital devices.
Kevin Maney (05:38):And you’ve got a phone which is too small to watch any movie on, uh, or you’ve got a TV or a laptop, and they’re too big to like sort of, you know, cuddle on a couch or student, take on an airplane in this new media universe, you’re going to want to have this thing called the tablet. And he explained to us that digital media was creating a problem. We didn’t even really think we had, but all of a sudden your pure sale of this and you go, Oh yeah, actually I need one of those things. And so that’s a, that’s always an interesting jujitsu move to put on people when you’re trading a category. But in, uh, the introduction you’re talking about this gap, that technology creates, and that’s one of the reasons we exist because so many technology companies interpreters, and they have that build it and they will come mentality.
Kevin Maney (06:30):Right. We, we create some cool new technology. We’re going to tell you all about what this technology thing does. Like all here is it does this, it does that. Here’s all the bells and whistles and exactly what you’re saying. I mean, people, most people look at that and go, but why does that matter? I don’t quite get it as it. Yeah. But if you lead with, I understand that you have this problem just like, was describing about the Steve Jobs or understand that you have this problem. And now that you understand the problem, I can tell you that there’s this new technology that can fix it, or they can address it in a new way. So much more effective way to address people and to bring them exactly you’re saying to bring them from where they are to where you need them to be. Absolutely.
Mike Damphousse (07:13):Uh, you know, another classic example of that. And most recent success, they didn’t create the underlying category with video conferencing or unified communications, but Eric wanted zoom. They came forward and said, look, let’s make ours video first communications. Right. Focus on video, not on sharing slides, not on, you know, the occasional, you know, video, but make video the star of the show. And I mean, he slipped in a little bit of luck this year and even my mother. Yeah. My mother knows that
John Farkas (07:48):For him, not for anybody else,
Mike Damphousse (07:51):But you know, video first was his twist on it. He took a category that existed and he’s crawling up the mountain right now
Mark Whitlock (07:58):And we’re using it right this moment as a matter of fact.
John Farkas (08:01):And, and I remember, I remember the first time I jumped on zoom as a platform. Uh, and I remember it because it worked right. I mean, I had been struggling with all these other platforms and I don’t know when it was probably five years ago now where I first happened into Zoom. Cause one of our clients was using it and I’m like, wow, this works. And I went and took it back to the, our company and said, we gotta get on this platform. It is taking a different approach. It’s jumping in and reframing an idea,
Kevin Maney (08:34):Zoom also shows the power of category thinking and becoming a dominant category creator because people think in terms of categories, right? That’s the way we sort out a world full of lots of, lots of choices. And you go into the grocery store, you know, you want, um, you know, condiments and you’re gonna go to the economy category. And then you think of exactly which brand or which of condiment you want. And so zoom had already positioned itself as a, you know, and especially when people in business h ad, by that point already positioned itself as the King of a new category of this sort of video first easy to use video. And then when COVID came along and everybody had to think, I need a video way to be able to, you know, conduct my business or get together with my friends. And so you think of the category first, and then you automatically think of that first leader, that one that’s shaping and dominating the category. So you just automatically turned to zoo. I don’t know very many people who decided on something else in this market. Um, and that’s, that’s the power of being that category.
Mike Damphousse (09:42):They also did something pretty smart and they called their company zoom. It’s a verb and it’s now become a thing. And Kevin and I, when we’re working on projects, you know, we come up with a unique point of view, which is a story that tells the category, you know, manifesto. We come up with the category name, which is not always as important as people want to think it is and can be a barrier, but we come up with the category name. We also look for something, we would call a thing. It’s either a idea, or it’s a twist on the category that stands out and zoom, you know, my mother says, let’s set up a zoom and you know, it’s becoming the Kleenex or the Xerox of, you know, of our decade. It is a trivia question for everybody out there. What do you call those things like Kleenex and Xerox and zoom? Proprietary eponyms okay. Look it up.
Angus Nelson (10:41):Say that three times fast.
Mike Damphousse (10:44):I can’t, I can’t
Mark Whitlock (10:46):We have our new vocabulary word. And is that, is that hashtag worthy?
John Farkas (10:49):Hey, Mark, Mark. Your proprietary eponym showing love it. Love it guys. Back us up a step here and say, okay, let’s walk through. Cause you, you started on it there and I’d love for you to kind of walk through the playbook of category creation, take us through the steps. What are the basic layers and how do you approach it?
Kevin Maney (11:14):Well, it really does start with that problem question. Let’s, let’s say, let’s say we’ve, we’ve, um, I’ve been, you know, work starting working with a client and we get together with them and really we spend this whole, most of this first day, um, really drilling down on the question of what problem do you really solve? And it seems like a simple question and it’s really hard, uh, because you keep saying, you know, um, most, most companies think they solve a problem. That’s probably four layers up from what the real problem is that somewhere down here or underneath where something that is really gets at, what’s bothering people in their God every night when go to sleep. And, you know, so, um, we start with that question and trying to really get at what the problem is and then, and then, and then have a conversation about, okay, if that’s really the problem, um, you know, what is the solution you’re offering?
Kevin Maney (12:08):What does the world look like when, um, when the solution comes to bear and works? Uh, and, um, so we, we, we get all that out on the table. Um, and by the way, you know, when we do it live, I mean, what you’re having this discussion with the leadership team of a company, one of the things that that does, um, is it gets alignment around the team by the time you’re done with that, everybody’s agreeing on what the problem is, what the solution is, um, what the vision is for how this thing changes the world as it goes forward. Uh, and, um, and then it’s our job to capture that in a, in a, what we call a POV. And this is part of some of the things you can read in the book too. His book actually lays out these, these steps. Um, and, uh, the POV is, uh, a narrative it’s 800 to a thousand words is a narrative.
Kevin Maney (13:00):It tries to capture, um, this flow from a setting of teeing up what the problem is in the world, um, while going in that a little bit. And, um, and then introducing the solution, sliding that in there and saying here’s, um, a way to solve that problem in a new way. Uh, and then painting a bit of a picture of what the world looks like once that problem is solved. So, um, that, that POV we presented as this is essentially, um, uh, putting your, your DNA, your company’s DNA into words, into words that anybody can understand. So you can show this POV to, um, the new, the new office administrator. You just hired to the engineers, the product, uh, to the agency that you just hired to do advertising. And if they read it, they will understand what you about and what you’re creating and why it should exist. Uh, and then,
John Farkas (13:59):So, so you have the foundation, you have that essential foundation built, and you’ve got the, the, the, the critical understanding, uh, articulated really well, what happens next?
Kevin Maney (14:12):That’s where that’s, that’s what Michael did. Yeah.
Mike Damphousse (14:16):And, and, you know, once you’ve built that platform, I try to refer to it as you know, and you could be a company that’s been around a long time. You know, we worked with a 15 year old publicly traded company last year. And the CEO, when they finally have their story to tell it’s their Ted talk, it’s not a branded advertising statement. It’s three to five minutes of an emotional story that captures the problem. It captures why it’s different. And once you’ve done that, you’ve demonstrated the category should exist. And then once you demonstrate that category, it should exist. You talk about the category and once you’ve got that point of view in place and that solid foundation, then you want to evangelize the category to the market. Um, both internally your own ecosystem, you know, partners, investors, board members, employees, and evangelize, so that internal mobilization takes place.
Mike Damphousse (15:19):And then you want to bring it external, right? How do you communicate it to the world? And there’s a concept in the book called lightning strikes. Um, you know, there’s various different techniques to communicate, but the whole idea is to concentrate as much energy from the company as you can on the communication of the category to the world. And it may be simple. It may be less as more. There’s a, there’s an author out there. Uh, Eddie Yoon, um, Eddie Yoon wrote a book called super consumers. And he’s very focused on category thinking. He’s published some work with one of the coauthors, um, Christopher Lochhead. And, uh, the idea of a super consumer is there may be a total universe of 10,000 customers. You could go after, but the top 50 are the ones that are going to be responsible for most of your revenue.
Mike Damphousse (16:15):And they may not be the ones purchasing the most of your revenue, but they’re going to be the ones talking it up. So when you think about how to go to market, you want to think about it less so super bowl ad highway billboards. I mean, yeah, you could go that route if you want, if you have the money, but what you really want to do is think about the most effective way to get the market talking about your category. You want your point of view to go viral and there’s tons and tons of techniques to do that. Um, and we spend a good portion of the, you know, life cycle of a project talking about and revising ongoing, you know, evangelization, you know, the concepts over time.
John Farkas (16:58):So if you were to quit, if you were to quickly differentiate between a go-to-market product launch and category creation, category evangelization, how would you, how would you help people draw a clear distinction between the two?
Kevin Maney (17:15):I think, I think I’ll start, I can chime in, but I think that’s actually pretty simple. Um, almost every product launch that you ever see leads with a product, right? You go out and say, here’s where you’re this product. It does this, um, it’s called this. And that’s, that’s, that’s where, that’s where you’re leading with. If you’re doing a category launch you’re leading with, um, this is a big problem in the world. Uh, and, um, and we need a, you know, a solution that does this, this, this you’re leading with the idea that this thing should exist in the world and it doesn’t yet. Um, and we have a product that’s going to be that thing. Uh, so it’s, it’s actually leading with opening that space in people’s minds to accept the thing versus introducing the thing and driving it into people’s minds.
John Farkas (18:11):So what do you see as the challenge? What’s the challenge with that? Typically
Mike Damphousse (18:14):The biggest challenge, and I know your podcast is really targeted to CMOs, and this is gonna, um, sound backwards for a message from us. Category design is not marketing. Okay. And if, if a CMO calls me and says, I’d like to talk to you about doing a category design project, I, first thing I ask is, has your CEO read a book playbook? And if the CEO’s not behind it, then I will tell that that CMO, get her to read the book. And then let’s set up another meeting because you end up with, if you treat it like a traditional marketing program, because it sounds just like positioning and messaging, right? It’s not it’s company strategy. And if you treat it like, it’s just marketing, you’re going to miss all the other aspects you need all the constituents everybody’s gotta be behind.
John Farkas (19:08):And it has to start at the top. I mean, yeah,
Mike Damphousse (19:10):That’s right. And then, you know, marketing comes into play when it’s time to bring it to the world. Now marketing becomes a tactical tool, but all the strategy that goes into it, you get the CFO in the room, the CEO in the room, the head of engineering in the room, the head of sales, the head of marketing. And it is a complete executive team decision on what the category should be and how to, how to, how to, how to describe it.
John Farkas (19:35):And it has to be an executive level cause it has to permeate the organization cause of everybody’s not in lock step in it. It’s going to be a failed effort.
Kevin Maney (19:42):Well, exactly John and, and there’s even another layer to that. Um, and this, we’ve seen this as a number of companies that we’ve worked with. Um, so, you know, most companies, most companies start with a product or an innovation that they’ve come up with. Um, and then they build some kind of a, you know, an organization around it to take it to the world. Um, and they’re usually doing all of this in somewhat of a vacuum. They’re not really understanding the category or the market or the Raimi at, um, so we have this category conversation of we, we drive in and we, we, we discover that category, that missing thing out there that needs to happen. Um, and, um, and a lot of times it means that the product that the company has built actually needs to change a little bit. Uh, because now they’re seeing a new space. That’s, that’s actually a little different from the space they originally set out with. So it can actually circle all the way back around to informing the product group that the product needs to change, um, to actually to actually fulfill this category that S.
Mark Whitlock (20:46):Damp, I’d love to ask you a question. Here we are on Studio CMO. You’ve been a CMO several times since you immersed yourself in the Play Bigger mindset years ago, with one of the, one of the authors of the book, how did category and your understanding of it affect how you lead marketing at those organizations?
Mike Damphousse (21:07):Well, it’s just such a different, um, way of thinking, you know, the, um, when, when I started a software company in the nineties and was always the marketing guy, right. CEO slash CFO is always my title. And, you know, when I finally met, um, I met two of the authors of play bigger Christopher Lochhead and Dave Peterson, um, late nineties. And they had been, you know, kind of thinking in categories all along. Uh, and I started to understand it. And over the years, a lot of, a lot of us were talking about it as category marketing, but it was always the idea of lead with the problem. And if you’re leading with the problem, you’re getting people to open up emotionally that, Oh my gosh, I do have an itch and I need to scratch that itch. Um, and so over the years, my marketing teams were always slightly different.
Mike Damphousse (22:09):I’d hire some young gun to come in. That was the PRX for, um, you know, for SAS companies. And all of a sudden he wants to talk about bigger, better brighter shinier. Well then you’re in the comparison mode, right? You’re Pope Coke versus Pepsi and Coke versus Pepsi. Doesn’t force you to choose, right, Coke versus Pepsi forces you to go. Uh, I been drinking Coke my whole life. I’m going to drink a Coke, but what you really want to do is be dr. Pepper. And you want to get people to say, okay, this is different. This has a flavor that I’ve been lacking all these years. I want to go that route. And so teaching my marketing team, um, you know, evangelizing to them, let’s not lead with the product or features or benefits let’s lead with the problem, but that was always sort of the, uh, the driving force over time.
Angus Nelson (23:07):I’m a pepper, you’re a pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too?
John Farkas (23:12):It’s interesting. You’re singing that song Angus, because that, uh, that song, if I remembering it right, and I’m dating the heck out of myself right now, but, uh, dr. Pepper is so misunderstood where the first lyrics of that song, which was, they were jumping right into the category issue and helping people frame and understanding of what it wasn’t and helping them move into what it was. And that’s a, that’s an interesting, uh, interesting thing to bring up. I was actually quickly trying to Google that lyrics to that song. Cause I, I remember only some of it, but enough to remember that’s what they were doing,
Kevin Maney (23:53):What has happened to jingles anyway, as marketing tools. And I think, I think we are going to have to bring jingles to category design. I think that’s a, maybe our next thing, like*
Mike Damphousse (24:03):*They, they they’ve become means names of the new jingles.
John Farkas (24:07):Now that could be, that could be the Nashville connection. Right? So we’d love for you guys to dig back in your, uh, in your archives and look at a B2B tech example of a category creation and tell us the story of a successful, a successful walk into that. Based on your experience in this realm is one come to mind, is there, is there a case study that’s kind of top of mine there that would fit that bill
Mike Damphousse (24:40):Two clients, I think are really good examples. One expands on what Kevin was talking about, how a point of view can actually inform product development and you can realize you need to shift the whole company. Uh, and that was task rabbit. We’re all familiar with task rabbit. Um, and when we work with them, they were really struggling with the category name, but what was their underlying problem that they needed to solve was their point of view. So we, we worked with them over the course of, you know, several weeks and the point of view became all about trust. You know, if I’m a millennial female that wants a 45 inch TV hung on my wall, I don’t want a random Uber driver to show up in a broken down Prius with, you know, Hey, can I borrow your tools? I won’t want a professional that shows up that I feel comfortable with letting in my house and then, Oh, by the way, when I’m done, I want to Mark them as one of my trusted taskers and that whole shift towards trust and having the product, uh, instill trust in the, in the user. Um, that was where the point of view shifted, uh, the, the company and they redirected their product development for a good nine months. Um, without even announcing the, the new point of view to the world, they worked on it internally to shift that that’s one example I thought was interesting cause Kevin was touching on it.
Kevin Maney (26:11):I was gonna just go to one that, uh, because of the, because of COVID is actually interesting right now. Um, it’s not healthcare, but it’s B2B. So we, we, we, we worked with this, uh, very small, early stage startup called falsify based out of Boston. And they were making a, um, uh, uh, uh, an app that could help managers manage better essentially. And, um, so it was a, it was a B2B play. I mean, it was something you would sell to an HR department or, uh, or department heads. And it was a, it was a kind of a very lightweight app that would, uh, you know, lead a manager through checklists and through things to check up with her and their, their, their colleagues. And it would have data that would come in about workflows and things like that, so that, you know, you could make a manager better at managing. Um, and we had, uh, was it December, January that we worked with them this year?
Mike Damphousse (27:07):Yeah, January 1st,
Kevin Maney (27:09):January. So we had shaved this POV that was around all of that. Um, and, uh, uh, and, and keep in mind that this is a, this is a pretty lightweight app that you can just download on your phone and start working in a lot of these other sort of management assistant applications that are out there are heavyweight stuff that the HR department and its to install and all that. So then, um, COVID comes along and all of a sudden everybody’s having to, um, work at, at home and people are having to manage teams virtually. Uh, and if it was hard, man, if you had a viewer manager had a hard time managing a team in an office, imagine doing it when you’re, you know, when everybody’s virtual. So we actually worked with them to shift the POV and describe this new problem, that it was just a merging of, of, um, being able to understand how to manage a virtual team.
Kevin Maney (28:01):And they shifted the product development slightly so that it was really aimed at managing a team wherever they happen to be whether it was some in the office, some at home, all over the place. And, um, and just as we’ve been always describing here is they described this new and emerging problem and, and here we have a way to fix it. Um, and it’s, I mean, it is very much, it’s a B2B thing. It’s not a consumer play, but, um, you know, nonetheless, it’s a, you know, it’s a, it it’s a company that very much stumbled into a category that could now create.
Mike Damphousse (28:37):There’s another, another unique example that I know a lot of companies struggle with. They, they feel like they’ve been around, they’ve established a category maybe. And we worked with a publicly traded company, um, blue prism that created the category, robotic process automation. It’s a way to, you know, let applications do things that users can program them to do as opposed to programmers. Uh, if this, then that, you know, those types of things and what they benefited by through this was not redefining what the category is, robotic process automation, but redefining how they talk about it. And that is over and over again, to me, the deliverable that clients walk away with, um, that, you know, makes the most impact is the point of view. Uh, and you know, so many times where we present the point of view, and then we, we just sit and look around the room. You just see people shaking, their, and the eyes are, are moving. And they’re like, that’s the story we’ve needed for so long. And it’s just being able to articulate, being able to tell your story to somebody in three minutes and they don’t even need to know who your company name is or the brand until the last second. And then you say, Oh yeah, by the way, um, I’m, I’m with falsify and we do manage our argumentation.
John Farkas (30:04):I’m glad you brought that up because that was something I was going to touch back on, because you said that little three to five minute story, and that’s the power that you guys kind of, um, lean into is that emotional story, which again, in the B2B space. So many times we forget that there’s a human on the other side, that buyer from that other company is a human who also has emotions, who has a problem, has a challenge, has something they’re trying to solve. And so the more that you can get clear on the power of that story and the emotion that’s intricately involved or involved with that individual, the more powerful the sales process can kick into gear. And that’s where I’ve, I’m glad you brought that back up because the story is everything. It is, it’s all in the story. Yeah. That’s a really important point, I guess, to that, uh, uh, that, that people forget that you’re really talking to human beings, even if it’s a B2B sale. [inaudible] so as you guys are engaging with clients and, and there’s at least somebody on the team that you’re working with too, that understands that there’s a need for a category here, how do you bring consensus toward that point? What are some ways that you help, uh, get all of them singing from the same song sheet, which I know sometimes is easier than others, but, uh, I I’d love to hear how, how you bring them from the point of this unity to harmony unification.
Mike Damphousse (31:38):Well, you know, it’s really funny that you’ve used the words from two, several times earlier in the, earlier in the discussion. And again here. Yeah. There’s a whole concept in the book concept in the book called photos from two. Um, and it’s moving how people think from the status quo to the way you want them to think. And a category designer puts the photos at the top of mind when they’re trying to move. How do people think about their existing problem today versus how you want to think about it in the future? And you were asking about how do we do it in a room when you’ve got some dissension, Kevin and I become the character designers for a week to get them to shift to photos that we think they need to think about. And when, when you’ve got six to 10 executives in a room, there’s always differing opinions.
Mike Damphousse (32:41):Yeah. We we’ve had to go so far as to pull the CEO aside and say, could you ask the guy in the corner to leave the room? Because it was just disruptive. Yeah, they’re disruptive. And it’s not that you don’t want their contribution, but they obviously had an emotional reason why, a deep reason why they didn’t want to contribute to the outcome. Um, and in the book it’s called the Zed, you know, that’s at one person with a dark shadow over the vision. Um, but you know, getting the process of making those decisions through the category design cycle that we go through, I, when I’m talking to CEOs and we’re negotiating the final terms of the agreement, they always ask, what are the deliverables? I said, well, you’re going to get workshops. You’re going to get some leave behind documents. You’re going to get a point of view and you’re going to get a category name, and you’re going to get the beginnings of a lightning strike or mobilization plan. Um, but the biggest deliverable you’re going to get are the decisions that you’re going to make during the process. Wow. And it’s intangible, but it, when you’re done the process, almost all of the CEOs we worked with would say, yeah, the biggest thing was getting everyone aligned.
Kevin Maney (33:52):Uh, we have, uh, and you know, this is where, um, not to, you know, sort of toot our horn, but dude, but, um, but this is where this is where having a couple of outsiders come in and force a company to have all the leadership team in the room at the same time. Um, and hammer at this thing. I mean, that’s, there’s, there’s actually really no substitute for that. When it comes down to these really sticky problems. Um, we just heard from, uh, one of our clients today that this company called prescriptive and, uh, he, he wrote to say that they just got a great round of funding and he was really happy, gave us a lot of credit for helping with the, um, the, you know, the, the investor pitches and the valuation they got. But, um, so this is a company in a very complex space.
Kevin Maney (34:43):They’re there, um, basically in the prescription drug benefit space. So, um, they had in the room, a bunch of people from Microsoft who are technologists and saw, you know, the technology could solve a particular problem and how this whole industry works. But they also had in the room, a bunch of people from the insurance industry, health insurance industry, and a bunch of people in the pharmaceutical industry. Um, and the pizza was a proverbial, you know, everybody feeling a different part of the elephant kind of thing. I was gonna say, that’s, that’s my experience. That’s the making of a civil war
Mike Damphousse (35:19):Or a new category.
Kevin Maney (35:21):They all knew that there was an elephant in the room, so to speak, that was, that was going to be the new category of the new, you know, the new product, what the company was doing. But they all, you know, they all saw it from a different point of view and, and, and, uh, thought a different part of the elephant. What was the most important part of the elephant? Um, and it really was the process of just spending an entire day, just constantly talking about this elephant, um, and, and what it really, what the problem really was and, and who, the person who had the problem really was. And eventually it kinda, you start forcing the conversation that big funnel down into a arrow or narrow path until by the end of the day, we can stand up and say, you know, uh, let’s take a shot at this. I think we have the story that we’re all agreeing on, and we’ll kind of just ad hock, spit it back at them. And most of the people in the room by that point, we’ll say, yeah, that’s sounding right. And, and that’s a magic moment when suddenly you’ve brought everybody together around a agreed upon concept, and that’s a really important thing to happen for any company.
John Farkas (36:36):So I I’ve talked, I’m curious, as, so, as you get that consensus and people are kind of coming around the idea, I talked at the beginning around how it’s, you know, there’s two, two ways that this fails, and one is the lack of unity and understanding the other is the underestimation of just what it’s going to take to make it, to make it happen. Let’s jump into the idea of a lightning strike for a minute. Um, what is the anatomy of a lightning strike? Uh, what’s what are some examples of a failed lightning strikes that you’ve seen? What’s been an immensely successful lightning strike?
Mike Damphousse (37:18):I would say, um, you know, first off what it takes to pull this off is years and years of consistent fighting of the same battle. Um, this is not a one quarter/two quarter marketing program. This is a constant, you know, March. Um, and in order to do that, you need to have, you know, consistent ways to touch your, your market. Um, you know, the book talks about lightning strikes. I like to talk about rolling thunder. Um, the whole idea is you’re communicating your category agenda at all times. Um, and you’re, you’re, you know, don’t let brand get in the way don’t let product features get in the way, um, come up with unique ways to get people to start thinking about your point of view. One of the most successful ones I saw, um, was 10 thought leaders in a room that was it, 10 thought leaders in an industry that didn’t have tens of thousands of customers.
Mike Damphousse (38:24):It was, you know, in the hundreds, it’s a very tight industry. And when they do a conference during the year, you know, these hundred companies show up at a hotel it’s not Las Vegas. And, you know, they, they go through discussions of all sorts of things. Well, this company was able to get 10, 10 of those thought leaders, the guys that are on stage, the, you know, the panelists to an offsite dinner, plain and simple, and they had a quality author, um, to start the conversation. And it was almost like a, just a round table. That to me is as effective a strike as possible, just like, you know, at a unique concept of super consumer, get the people that are going to influence 10 more people. One of the most sure. Um, you know, one of the strongest ideas in the book are the cognitive biases.
Mike Damphousse (39:15):And one of the cognitive biases is the anchoring effect. The first time you hear about something, you create the category in your head, and then the person who communicated that category to you, you kind of put it in there as well. That’s where the logo goes, right? So, um, I dunno who earlier tonight or today somebody said something about, um, you know, the first time they heard about something, you know, a great example is the iPhone in 2007, I think released, I forget I was out in, uh, South market San Francisco with a scrappy startup that eventually got acquired, uh, by Ziff Davis and the CEO whipped out the little first version of the iPhone and said, Hey, check this out. That was the first one I saw. So I said, Oh, let me play with it. And the first thing you do is the thing with your fingers on a picture.
Mike Damphousse (40:09):I go, what else does it do? He goes, I don’t know, but there’s supposed to be this app store. And, you know, their, their whole point of view was there’s an app for that. And that point of view, there’s an app for that. And at the time there were only like a hundred apps over the next year. There were 10,000, then a hundred thousand now probably a million ads. And, you know, the iPhone has extended itself from that to where it is today. But I heard of the iPhone, the first smartphone that I was impressed by, I used to have the blackberries and all the other ones. And that was the anchoring effect I have now owned every iPhone that ever was released. If you look at my Apple history of all my devices, I should disable. There’s probably 30, 40, 50 devices in there. And I credit, I switched to max that year too. I credit it all to Scott who showed me his first iPhone.
John Farkas (41:05):Yeah. So, you know, what I, what I know is that you guys understand the anatomy of category and, uh, and Kevin you’ve recently put forward a pretty, uh, pretty bold thoughtful assertion in the healthcare universe would love for you to tell us what it is and why you are putting it forward.
Kevin Maney (41:27):Uh, well, the book that just came out called UnHealthcare. I wrote it with with Hemant Taneja who’s the managing partner at general catalyst. And then the other coauthor was Stephen Klasko who’s the CEO of Jefferson health in Philadelphia. So we had this interesting merger of the category designer, a, uh, a VC and a traditional healthcare CEO. Um, and there, there have been plenty of books and articles and everything else about, um, you know, data and healthcare and digital doctors and all this other stuff. But, um, the, the, the last year or so we saw that there was a lot of emerging companies in this, in this new space that, um, solved the problem of, uh, the way healthcare has been set up is it’s really a sick care system. Um, we go to it retroactively when something’s wrong. Um, and all of the incentives, all the financial incentives are set up to treat you after you’re already sick. Um, and, uh, and that’s not the way we want to live.
Kevin Maney (42:35): I mean, actually if healthcare didn’t exist at all, and we never had to go to a doctor or hospital, that would be the ideal way to have it live our lives. So now, um, because of the technologies that have been developed, like from cloud computing to mobile devices, IOT, um, uh, big data, but now also artificial intelligence and all of these things that are coming together. Um, we can use technology to understand your individual health every better of every day, um, and actually become essentially a, a, uh, a guardian angel, you know, for your, for your health and, and understand that you are starting to, I have this particular problem in proactively helped you decide to go get, you know, get some help or do something, do something that’s going to avoid that problem and keep you out of the healthcare system rather than having you go into it and having the financial incentives to incentives be that, uh, you know, this prescription services is in the like, so that you’re actually paying to keep yourself healthy, not paying to fix yourself after years.
Kevin Maney (43:46):Um, and so we approached this from a category design perspective and with the idea of creating a big new umbrella category, um, that sits aside healthcare, which traditional healthcare really sick care. So we named it something else we needed that health assurance. Um, and, uh, and with, you know, with the idea that there is a broad new category emerging that does exactly that, that helps us stay healthy, using technology to understand us at a personal level. Um, and then the health care system, the hospitals and the surgeons, and all those kinds of things, um, become an adjunct to that, that they get used far less, but, and only get used in dire situations. When, you know, when you’ve been at a auto accident or you contract COVID and you’re, you’re, you’re one of those people who has a really bad case of it. Um, but, uh, the whole what’s what was interesting about the book too, was that we, um, we’re almost done with it in February and, and we stopped because we saw what was happening with COVID.
Kevin Maney (44:59):Um, and, uh, and what’s what’s happened is that everything we were already writing about is being accelerated by this. Um, and one of the examples for instance, is just the simple example of telehealth, um, that, uh, you know, the, this idea that, um, that medical advice and that, or a doctor visit or something can, can actually be something virtual or that comes in over software, over a phone with something most people rejected before this crisis hit. And suddenly now everybody is tuned into what that might be. And, um, to, to go all the way back down to what you were raising at the very beginning of this, um, show about, um, uh, people have to be ready for technology to come into their lives. This crisis has made this kind of technology that health insurance is creating. Um, something people are ready to have come into their lives in a way they weren’t just six months ago. So I think this is going to be an amazing and interesting time in the health field. Um, over the next couple of years,
John Farkas (46:06): We definitely are in a time of transformation. And with all the technology that is becoming increasingly ubiquitous is AI and the associated, um, uh, the, the way it’s becoming so mainstream, so accessible so easily to grab onto and apply in a variety of different ways as it comes into the open source realm, it’s transforming how we are able to automate how are able, how we are able to automate how we are able to host transformation and see a world of change happen. And we have to help people into it. We have to help people understand it. And, uh, and categories are the key to human understanding. Um, appreciate you guys joining us today and, uh, and helping us into that world and Mark, we’ve got some, uh, some things for our listeners to know.
Mark Whitlock (47:06): Absolutely. So when you come to studiocmo.com and click on the Kevin Maney interview, you’ll be able to check out all of the show notes here. We’ve connected to Category Design Advisors and help you, uh, check out the company that Kevin and Mike have built and how to learn more about category design. We also have resources from golden spiral about category creation and how that affects the way that you look at marketing for your B2B tech company. We’ll also throw in a little bit of information about the Dr. Pepper jingle for you, if you’re interested. So come on over to studio, cmo.com, misunderstood and click on the interview around play bigger and unhealth care. And Kevin will make a link available to that book as well. Uh, you can get an ebook or a hardcover edition to the book. When you come to studiocmo.com and click on the link for this interview, I click out and buy that, um, immediately to find out more about health assurance. Again, the book title is UnHealthcare. So look forward to seeing you on [inaudible] dot com. Please subscribe to our podcast and tell others about it. That’s the best way to find out first information about other great guests we’re going to have on studio CMO is to subscribe. And so as always, let us remind you, understand your buyer’s problems and lead with an empathetic understanding and make your buyer the hero. We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO. And we’re going to leave you with a little bit of music from Kevin’s band, Total Blam Blam.