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Should My Category Name Be Relevant And Relatable?

How to balance "new and different" language with words you use every day.

Dear Friends, Subscribers, And Category Pirates,

Creating new and different Languaging doesn’t always mean inventing new words.

Sometimes, a new word combination is all you need to stand out.

In this video, we answer one of your questions about how important it is to create a category name that resonates with people—and that is similar enough to everyday language. (For context, this question came from our post about coffee Category Kings.) Languaging takes thinking, but it’s worth getting right.

Category Queens use Languaging to do a few things:

  1. To differentiate themselves from any and all competition through word choice, tone, and nuance

  2. To speak to (and speak “like”) the customers they want to attract—especially the Superconsumers of the category

  3. To further establish their position in the category they are designing or redesigning

  4. To insinuate and give context to the 8 category levers and show how the company executes any number of them in a different way.

If you haven’t heard of the ideas mentioned in the video, or you want to deepen your understanding, we recommend these mini-books:

(Can’t access all the mini-books? Join the Pirate Ship to unlock 55+ mini-books on Category Creation and Category Design, and receive new ones straight to your inbox.)

Have any questions or want to share your thoughts?

Comment below or simply reply to this email. It can be related to this video or anything about category design. The more questions you ask, the more we can help you apply category design and get exponential outcomes.


Category Pirates

Eddie Yoon

Christopher Lochhead

Nicolas Cole

Katrina Kirsch

PS: Pre-order The 22 Laws Of Category Design!

Get the core category design lessons and frameworks we’ve shared over the years in one legendary reference book. Flip through chapters to find legendary quotes, learn from new case studies, and apply frameworks through several in-chapter exercises. It’s vastly different than any other book we’ve done, and we’re excited to share it with you! You can pre-order the eBook on Amazon—publishing June 21, 2023.

Video Transcript

Katrina Kirsch: This is from our subscriber Ant Pugh, and it's a Languaging question.

So they ask, “You use examples of Languaging, which are not commonly used in everyday conversation. For example, I'm very familiar with Starbucks, but I've never heard the phrase "dessert coffee" before.” Just for reference, we use this in one of our newsletters. We said Starbucks was in the dessert coffee category. So this person just wants to hear our views on the importance of the category name.

Does whether or not it's used in everyday speech matter, and is it relevant?

Eddie Yoon: It matters a great, great deal.

So if Starbucks, it's an interesting one. In their situation, they probably wouldn't want to be known as a dessert coffee business, just mostly for legal liability reasons and whatnot. But that consumers "get them" as a dessert coffee business is incredibly important.

And the way that they did it was by Languaging, something entirely new (e.g frappuccino).

They've created something, and someone correct me if I'm wrong on this. I believe Frappuccino—I don't think is an Italian legit word from an etymology standpoint. (We checked. Frappé is a loose translation of the French noun frapper which means “to chill” and literally “to beat.” Cappuccino comes from the Italian word for “hood.” )

It is an Italian-sounding American bastardized version of what they were talking about. But frappé being, you know, ice and cold. But they languaged something to sound sophisticated and European, but that everybody knows is a sugar bomb. They know what it is.

On some level, it’s incredibly important your category name is top of mind and deeply impressed on your brain.

Because that's what consumers think about.

There are a lot of places where they can get coffee. There are not many places where they could get dessert coffee. And so the importance of that is important, not only because of the obvious, so that consumers can find you. But if you think if you read our most recent mini book on Simplicity Is Velocity, it is incredibly difficult to come up with something powerful, pithy, and poignant like dessert coffee.

And so in many respects, not only is the outcome important, but the exercise itself is so incredibly important.

And as we wrote about, it's not clear that you have true mastery of what your expertise is, unless you can explain it so simply that it sticks, that it can be spread like wildfire from a word-of-mouth perspective, and that people immediately get it.

And that it's usually in the framework of two words, or three words that come together that sound like contradictions, like dessert coffee. Coffee is usually associated with morning pick-me-up. Dessert is usually not. So that inherent contradiction is an important part of it. And the journey of figuring out your category name is as important as the category name itself. A) because you have to simplify and B) because of the art and the craft of putting two opposing ideas at the same time.

That arrests the customer who was on autopilot and not thinking about anything and got them to stop, doubletake, and say what in the world did you just say? Let me learn more about it.

Christopher Lochhead: 100%. Let me come in with two examples. One B2B enterprise and one B2C.

Sun Microsystems, back in the early days of the internet, was a very important company. And they sold computer servers amongst many other things. And they were very early on networking. They had one of the very early networking software infrastructures called Solaris.

They had a tagline for years that went like this. "The network is the computer."

Now today, that sounds very obvious.

In the mid-90s, not only was that not obvious, many very learned people thought about the statement "the network is the computer" for years and then had a delayed a-ha. Which is wow. It's about the network, which is a function of a bunch of connected computers. It's not about one computer. Wow. So that's an example of a category POV around the internet, networked computers that was purpose-built to stop people in their tracks and make them think.

And it was one of the most extraordinary POVs that ever did that and was a big part of driving the internet.

Here's a consumer one that's going on right now.

There are a lot of people who like the taste of cocktails. Cocktails have been getting more and more popular. Mixologists have emerged as a category of bartender who can really do something special. There are a lot of people who would like to drink these drinks, who for one reason or another would like to drink them without alcohol.

And so there's a lot of things that these could be called.

They could be called alcohol-free cocktails—that would be a very normal name.

But what we have here is strategic Languaging and the use of a brand new portmanteau. Portmanteau being taking two words and putting them together to create a new word. And this is why this category of cocktail of alcohol-free cocktails, in part, has exploded. And the category name is mocktails. And you can have a very tasty mocktail. I have.

I asked them to put alcohol in it to make it even better. But that's just me.

Eddie Yoon: Just a quick quick quick segue here, Christopher. Keurig I can talk about this now because it's all out there now. Big innovation, obviously, hot, single-serve coffee. The second big innovation was if you remember Keurig Cold, which is all about soda.

And much to my dismay, had tried very hard to argue: Bad second category to tackle.

There is no problem with soda. There is no on-premise soda. And there's no super premium dingdong soda to create a price gap. What they should have done was exactly what you would said: mixed drinks, cocktails, and mocktails. Very easily done in a K-cup. Add your own booze—good to go.

Christopher Lochhead: Or not, right? Mocktail or cocktail.

Eddie Yoon: Mocktail or cocktail. And there is technology where you could have dehydrated alcohol into a powder.

Now there's a lot of that's a little bit of a third rail because that can be tricky and sticky for a lot of reasons. But that being said, alcohol mimics the category dynamics of coffee in a way. And partly, it makes me wonder, had I thought of the Languaging and gotten that right, maybe we would have been more convincing about that of cocktails and mocktails.

Christopher Lochhead: Mocktail is legendary category design.

And there's no doubt if you look at the popularity of mocktails, it has been in part driven by the powerful, super smart Languaging that creates the category. It's even fun to ask for one. You don't feel like a donkey in a bar restaurant asking for a mocktail. It's kind of cool.

Katrina Kirsch: I was just looking at K-cups, and they actually have Kahlua coffee now. So there would have been a great overlap. That was the bridge. Because people, I mean you can have Irish coffee. There we go.

Christopher Lochhead: And some of us like an Irish coffee one morning, and a Kahlua coffee the next morning, or maybe just a Bailey's and coffee the next morning after that. There's a lot of variance here. New categories create new categories

Eddie Yoon: Had they only talked to Supers.

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