What’s a category? It’s a brands positioning i.e. lifestyle, energy drinks, travel, outdoor, cycling etc.

Brands have to understand their category, it is fundamental to getting more things right and less wrong – being able to scale, find focus, make better decisions and better understand your brands direction – it’s vision.

There are a lot of brands struggling with their category.

We believe that customers buy categories first and brands second. We’ll say this again, we believe that customers buy categories first and brands second.

We’ll give you a couple examples:

Example A: Your going on holiday, you’ve booked your ticket and now all you need to do, is spruce up your holiday wardrobe and you notice that your swimming costume/bathing suits are far from suitable. So you begin the process – I need a bathing suit, a fashionable one piece – once this decsion is made, you begin to think of the brands that are in the space, of fashionable one pieces. Customer buy categories first and brands second.

Example B: The family car is getting old, the family has got bigger and you just got a new job that is paying more. So you’re thinking something safe, perhaps an estate, but you also want to treat yourself with a little added sports package, so you think perhaps in the category of estates with sport packages and then begin to shop around for the brand that tickles your fancy.  Category first, brand second.

If you don’t believe us, try it yourself. Think about your next purchase, think about what you need – food, clothing, evening out, camera, whatever and think about the process you go through, we guarantee it will be category first, brand second.

So back to brands and categories. If you are a brand struggling to get it right, you may want to start with something as fundamental as understanding your category and then narrowing your focus within one of your categories fundamental truths, to establish focus and begin getting things right more often.

If you believe consumers buy categories first and brands second and you’re a brand, you need to know your category. 

Who Buys Your Stuff?

Ernest and Gregor

Thank you Al Ries, author of the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.