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How 3 Category Kings Of Coffee Used Languaging To Claim Their Niche
See examples of the specific category, niche, POV, and messaging.
Dear Friend, Subscriber, and Category Pirate,
This week’s Buried Treasure will make Languaging easier to understand and use.
We get a lot of questions about the differences between a category, niche, POV, and messaging. The distinction between these is crucial because improving a company’s messaging in absence of a true north category POV is a “meaningless,” money-burning project. So we’re sharing a handful of examples to clear up the confusion.
Let’s dive in.
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Languaging is the strategic use of language to create distinctions between old and new, same and different.
And it involves Framing, Naming, and Claiming all of the following:
A category/niche: “What’s the new and different market that we want to become known for?”
A POV: “What do we stand for that’s different than everyone else? How can we move people’s thinking FROM the way the world used to be (old category) TO the way we believe the world can be (new category)?”
And messaging: “What are all the different ways we can communicate our POV, to who, when, and why, such that they take action?”
Question: “Are a Category and a Niche the same thing?”
Real quick (because we get this question a lot):
Yes, the words “category” and “niche” tend to be interchangeable. They’re the same thing.
However, typically the word “category” is used when talking about a larger market opportunity (like Uber creating the “ride-sharing” category), whereas the word “niche” is used when talking about a smaller market opportunity (like when a creator becomes known for creating a small, but highly potent, new segment in a market). In both cases, you are creating net-new opportunities for yourself and others. The only difference tends to be scale, and to what degree.
To understand the differences, let’s look at a few examples from the Category Kings of coffee:
Category: Single-Serve Coffee
POV: It's not a cup of coffee from a coffee pot/shop. It's a single-serve coffee maker that brews your own personal cup of coffee, based on the K-Cup flavor you choose.
Messaging 1: "Hey office manager: office coffee pots are messy. You want a Keurig. It's not a cup of coffee from a coffee pot/shop. It's a single-serve coffee maker that allows every single person in the office to brew their own personal cup of coffee, based on the K-Cup flavor they choose.”
Messaging 2: "Hey parent of 4 kids: coffee pots in the kitchen are messy. You want a Keurig. It's not a cup of coffee from a coffee pot/shop. It's a single-serve coffee maker so that when you have friends, family, and/or coworkers over, everyone can brew their own personal cup of coffee, based on the K-Cup flavor they choose.”
Category: Dessert Coffee
POV: It’s not a cup of coffee you grab from the coffee pot at home or work. It’s a novelty cup of coffee, oftentimes blended with milk and whipped cream and pumpkin spice, that you can enjoy in a warm environment, usually with friends, family, or coworkers.
Messaging 1: "Hey remote worker: drinking coffee at home is a lonely experience. Instead, take a walk down the street to Starbucks. Here, you won’t just have a cup of coffee. You’ll have a creamy, delicious, dessert drink that feels like an “afternoon treat.” A reward for all your hard work.
Messaging 2: “Hey busy person with a sweet tooth: drinking coffee is part of your daily routine, but wouldn’t it be great if it tasted like dessert too? You want to go to Starbucks. You’ll get the novelty coffee that gives you a jolt AND curbs your sweet tooth.
Category: On-The-Go Coffee
POV: It’s not a high-grade luxury cup of coffee you pay a premium for. This is no-frills coffee. It’s affordable. It’s quick and easy. It’s pure caffeine, whenever you need it.
Messaging 1: “Hey road tripper: if you’re on the go and need a boost of caffeine, go to McDonald’s. You’ll get an affordable cup of coffee that fits your budget and gives you the simple jolt of energy you’re looking for.”
Messaging 2: Hey parent of 4 kids: if you’re on the way to school to drop off your kids and need a boost of caffeine, go to McDonald’s. You’ll get an affordable cup of coffee that fits your budget—without adding another complicated decision to your day.”
Each company is in the coffee business, but they strategically use Languaging to show how their product/service is different.
Your category and POV should be well-defined and chiseled into the company’s tablets.
After that, the true science of messaging can begin: a never-ending experiment of swapping in and out of words, phrases, promotions, testimonials, and other “messages” in order to figure out which are resonating and most effectively evangelizing your category POV. (You’ll often find there are 2-3 audiences and problems that carry your POV most efficiently. Those are worth doubling down on!)
To use Languaging to name (and claim) your category, you can find more examples and frameworks in our mini-book Languaging: The Strategic Use Of Language To Change Thinking.
But remember: Naming & Claiming your category is only a piece of the puzzle.
Is Languaging important? Yes.
Does it help your Category Design “stick?” Absolutely.
But ultimately, Category Design is about prosecuting The Magic Triangle—Product Design, Company/Business Model Design, and Category Design—and consciously pushing & pulling the 8 levers of differentiation to make it harder and harder for any and all competition to enter your category in a competitive way.
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