Building A Category Of One Brand

Brad VanAuken The Blake ProjectDecember 30, 20105652 min

Building A Category Of One Brand

“Category of One” brands tend to be exceptionally successful. A brand that finds itself in a crowded market with too many competitors and too few viable positions would do well to reframe its business so that it becomes a “category of one” brand within the new frame of reference.

So rather than being one of many brands in the consideration set with few meaningful points of difference, the brand becomes the only alternative within a new category. Many brands have successfully accomplished this.

The Strong Museum expanded significantly, becoming the third largest children’s museum in the world and the second largest in the USA. But rather then claim being number two or three in children’s museums, it decided to preemptively name itself the Strong National Museum of Play, becoming the only choice in the new category of play. More recently the brand renamed itself simply “The Strong” and created the following sub-brands: National Museum of Play, International Center for the History of Electronic Games, National Toy Hall of Fame and Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play. The Strong has achieved an international reputation as the expert in play.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was not well positioned compared to other top engineering schools. State universities offering engineering degrees and Ivy League and other first-tier liberal arts schools that were building their math, science and engineering programs were also crowding the “engineering” space. Based on rigorous research, Rensselaer decided to move away from “engineering” to focus on changing the world through technological creativity and entrepreneurship. This led to adopting the tagline, “why not change the world?SM,” altering the frame of reference from “engineering” to “I can change the world.” The new “category of one” position instilled a passion for improving the world through breakthrough technology and a confidence in being able to do so. Rensselaer is thriving today.

There are many other examples of this. For instance, American University recently announced its intent to own the category of educating “Wonks.” Their new campaign states “When you know something backward and forward, you’re a wonk. It’s a term Washington insiders use to describe their experts, people who are focused on creating change—people like American University’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni.”

The Blake Project offers a full day workshop in which clients explore alternative category definitions, competitive frames of reference and preemptive brand positions to discover a potential “category of one” brand position. This highly facilitated workshop is preceded by stakeholder research. Its output is a recommended “category of one” brand position, which can be translated into a tagline, a marketing campaign and inform strategic business decisions.

Please email us for more about how this workshop can benefit your brand.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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Brad VanAuken The Blake Project

One comment

  • Buck McMurray

    December 30, 2010 at 2:55 am

    I love this topic. This epitomizes the way a company can differentiate itself, refreshen it’s offering, or innovate around a core competency.

    I’m currently working with a company that has recently gone through this type of change. It’s huge. The previous space became too cluttered, and in order to survive, they had to make a change. The change has been incredible. The only concern is they’ve built loyalty with their fans based on their previous model. By changing the paradigm, they endanger alienating some of their “love” group.

    The change has to come, but you’ve got to give some of the loyal fans a soft landing. Make sure there’s a net.

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