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How Important Is Framing, Naming, and Claiming A Problem?

It's hard to admit the truth, but your belief on this will determine your success.

Dear Friend, Subscriber, and Category Pirate,

One of your fellow pirates, Joe, is trying to create and lead a category.

The problem is, his team isn’t “getting” why they need to frame, name, and claim the problem. (A principle we wrote about in the Languaging mini-book.) Joe has explained the concept. And he’s trying to get everyone on board. But people are pushing back.

He feels stuck.

So, he reached out to ask us an essential question:

What’s the importance of naming, framing, and claiming the problem?

But the question behind the question is, “How important is category design? Did the team that designed this even do it?”

In this week’s video, you’ll learn why this process is essential for becoming a Category King / Queen. You’ll get a new perspective on how to think about this concept, which will keep you motivated when others start questioning your category design strategy. It will also help you convince your leadership team, your boss, and your direct reports why this 3-step process is key to your category’s and company’s success.

As for whether or not we Category Pirates have successfully framed, named, and claimed the problem that category design solves…

We’ll let you all decide. 💪🏴‍☠️


Category Pirates

Eddie Yoon

Christopher Lochhead

Katrina Kirsch

Nicolas Cole

P.S. - The 22 Laws of Category Design is the #1 new release in Marketing for Small Businesses.

The book is officially live! Pick up your copy and let us know your thoughts, questions, and what you think of the in-book exercises. (The audiobook is waiting for Amazon’s approval, but we’ll let you know when it’s published.)

P.P.S. - We’re hosting a How to Frame, Name, and Claim a Category webinar this week.

If you couldn’t make it to this one, you can sign up for our event email list here. You’ll be the first to know when we schedule webinars, AMAs, and more.

Video Transcript

Katrina Kirsch  00:04

But what about when they ask, what is the name framed and claimed problem that category design solves? Like when people are confused about that, what do you say to them?

Christopher Lochhead  00:16

Well, fundamentally, the answer to me is always the same, which is, there are a few anchor things. Number one, at a very high level, you got to believe that there are three things a company does: 1) designs, a legendary company slash business model, 2) legendary product services, and 3) legendary category. And that those three things at the highest of high levels are the three most important things that a company does.

If you don't believe that, we can't help you. I can't talk to you.

I mean, I might, you might be a nice person, but I can't in the business context. If we can't roughly agree that that's generally right, then we got nothing to talk about. So point A, you have to be in a place where you say that category design is roughly a third of what's going to make you successful plus or minus. Point B, then you have to believe that you want to be the person and or the company that takes ownership and off authorship for the category. And if you if that's where you're at, then we can help. And if that's not where you at, we're not in the business of convincing the unwilling.

That's the difference between you walking in the dojo and us standing outside the dojo and dragging you into it.

Eddie Yoon  01:34

I mean, if you don't, if you don't agree that it's important then nothing else matters. And if you agree that it's important, you must agree that it's important to do all the way. And it's one of these things where this is the question of, why is naming and framing and claiming so important?

It's a red herring. It's really a question of why is category design important?

And if you don't think about it that way, exactly what Christopher says, don't even bother answering the first question. If the second question is, you don't understand that. So it's almost a reject the premise rejects the question type of a thing, you know, is framing naming and claiming the problem is important.

Well, let me go back to, “Is capturing 76% of the category economics important—yes or no? Or would you rather compete with a better or faster, cheaper version for the 24%?

And I think the honest truth is, most people are actually comfortable with that 24%.

Because it's familiar. They know, I think that's right. And so, you know, and I think that's hard for people to admit, even though a lot of people think that. And if that's, you know, our friend, Joe, if that's the question that he's confronting is like, I am just happy where I am competing for this 24% then, you know, you shake his hand saying, you know, God bless you. Good luck.

The good thing for you is that 99% of everything that every business school consulting firm business book has ever taught will help you there.

You're fighting for inches, not fighting for miles.

And so if you, if you can reframe that to, you know, you like 76% or 24%, okay, if you'd like 76%, do you know that it's different, it's not going to be you have to do a ton of unlearning. Okay, I like the 76%, I'm willing to admit that I need to do a lot of unlearning.

And part of the unlearning is freeing yourself up to really hone in on what the problem is.

Because if you cannot articulate the problem, (e.g. frame, name, and claim it) you don't really understand it.

It's the same thing as Mark Twain saying, “I apologize I didn't have time to write you a short letter. So I wrote you a long one.” Right? And that's the importance of framing, naming, and claiming. If you don't have the magic words that may seem like why are we spending so much time on this, then you don't fully understand it. It takes too long to explain. And every time you'd have to explain it to somebody, a co-worker, or recruit an investor, or customer, some portion of it gets lost. And when some portion of it gets lost, once the next conversation gets lost, again, now you're diluted.

And what ends up happening is a customer doesn't understand why you're worth the premium that you're worth, an investor doesn't understand why you're worth a multiple premium that you're worth, and an employee doesn't understand why you're worth taking this offer, versus some other company that's paying competing for 24%.

It is such a seminal, important question. But it's the question behind the question that is much more revealing behind that. And so I'm glad that Joe raised that, but is massively important.

Katrina Kirsch  04:47

And it's hard, right? It's not easy to do this and to think this way and to try to do work. I mean, if you think about people who do the work day in day out, we just need to hit these revenue numbers. We need to do this, we need to do that. And I feel like eventually trying to take yourself out of that world and put yourself into this different way of thinking and different way of doing things, it kind of seems like it's adding to your workload.

Do we even have time for this?

Is this even really that important with all the other 5 million things I need to do today?

And maybe that's part of the gap, is understanding that in the context of your job, and how it can change things from where they are today to where they could be in the future?

Christopher Lochhead  05:27

Well, and I go a little even further, which is, and this took me a long time. So in the early part of my career, or when I started working for other people, I quit and or got fired roughly every two years. And I thought that was a bug, not a feature.

And it was really only when we started Play Bigger the company where I realized, no, no, it was a feature, not a bug.

And here's why it's a feature, not a bug.

Once you understand that the vast majority of people in the working world get paid to manage and grow the incremental better, what you realize is the people who work on the exponential different, literally are like a jackhammer in the fucking head of the people who work on the incremental better. And the more you want to do exponential different in a company that is focused on the exponential different, the more they fucking hate you.

And further, if you tee up an exponential different, and then don't give the company a decade to go execute that (that is to say, give them more exponential different after that) you'll break the company. Because the company can only do one exponential different every decade or so.

And so the point being, if you're an exponential different person, you've got to realize that you're probably going to have a more powerful career if you parachute in and out of places, whether you're an employer or an advisor, or whatever, on a two to four-year basis, when they need help jumping into a breakthrough that's exponentially different.

Once they're up and running, you’re gone.

I'll give you a simple example. I have three standing meetings with Clari. Two that are every week, and one that's every two or three weeks. Well, for the last two months, they've canceled virtually every single one of them. And I've now taken them off my calendar because they don't show up at them.

In the old days, I used to see this as a negative thing.

Oh, they don't love Christopher anymore.

No, they have their category design. They know how to execute, they're off executing. And sometimes they need some help on some executions. But the reason they're talking to me less and less and less is they're actually very smart people who know how to do the exponential different. They've got the big idea, the new category design yesterday, they want some help and some thinking and some tweaking and some nudging, sure, but for the most part, they're off and running. And so and so I don't hear from them very much anymore.

And that's great.

And I know they will show back up and want some more help when they're ready to do the next exponential move inside of what they've already created.

And that's natural. And I've provided my value. And when they need me, I will provide it again. But right now me giving them more exponential different would actually fuck them up. And I would go from being one of the most valuable things in their company's history to one of the most irritating things in their company's history. And I didn't know that when I was 25. And so what was a giant bug is now the main feature.

Said in a simpler way, we took getting fired and turned it into a business model.

Katrina Kirsch  08:37

There we go. That's the problem that category design solves. We just didn't want to get fired.

Christopher Lochhead  08:40

Well, that's what you did, right Eddie? Sooner or later, you were too irritating for the people at Cambridge. They didn't want to hear it anyway. And now you're in the way. And so you became the fucking ghost in the machine and everybody hated you for it. “Hate,” you know.

You said, “Hey, I'm gonna go get paid to be the ghost in the machine, as opposed to trying to not be who I am.” Because you get paid for the incremental better. I get paid for the exponential different.

No kidding. We both will make each other insane if we hang out with each other for too long. Because sooner or later, I'm going to want to fuck up what you do.

And you are not going to want me to fuck it up.

Katrina Kirsch  09:19

Yeah, I think that's a good answer. And hopefully, it will spark more questions but maybe also give them a lot to think about.

Category Pirates
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Category Pirates 🏴‍☠️