How to Differentiate the Old vs New Category, Without Comparing
What to keep in mind when leveraging a FROTO.
Comparison marketing isn’t just bad marketing—it’s bad business strategy.
But how do you language a new category, without falling into the “Better Trap?"
A FROTO is the way category designers educate customers to move from the old category to the new.
Instead of having a conversation about the past, you use a FROTO to have a conversation with your customers and investors about the future—specifically, the future potential of the category.
In this week’s Pirates Perspective, we talk about how to leverage Languaging to take consumers FROM their current reality TO a new and different future.
No lazy comparison allowed.
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Katrina Kirsch 00:05
Okay, this question is a FROTO question, and it comes from one of our members, The Thinker. So they ask, "You say never to compare a category or service to the old way of things, is there a particular way to talk about the old way so it does not sound like we are just better in comparing it versus something new? Of course, we'll always need to compare what we do now to the old way, that's part of the FROM-TO process."
Any insight into how to word this?
Eddie Yoon 00:33
I think of when most people compare the past to the present, or the future, they actually skip the past. And they just jump to the future. And what I have found is that you can talk about the old way, and you have to talk about the old way, if you talk about the good and the bad, and the ugly of the old way. And as long as you are telling the truth about the old way, then it becomes evident that it's not just a better. So when you are talking about the new without sufficiently articulating what the old is, then yeah, well, new sounds like we added this feature, we added this benefit and that's going to be a better thing.
Eddie Yoon 01:12
I'll give you the extreme example of the general manager of the Philadelphia Sixers Daryl Morey used to tell a story. He used to be a rental car Superconsumer. But he was famous for, because he was rushing so late after meeting a prospect or doing some deal or whatever, he would drop the rental car at the curb of the gate. Because he was like, I don't have time. And I don't want to do it. Or he would just leave it in random parts of the city because he just couldn't deal with it. Right?
And it seems like a terrible thing for a customer to do.
Any Category Pirate would say that is an amazing revenue opportunity.
Daryl, pay us 1000 bucks a year, 10,000 bucks a year, and leave it where ever you want and we will take care of it for you. And so that that is a thing, like no one really thinks about that with rental cars is as the old way of doing things. Only an extreme consumer with extreme needs would point out, I have this ridiculous request. Can you please solve this for me? And until you do, the old way is going to be a terrible burden for me.
Christopher Lochhead 02:19
Oh, and by the way, I'm going to do it anyway.
It's funny, the comedian, the disgraced comedian, Louis C.K., has a bit about this where he gets to the airport, and he just parks it at the gate and he runs to the gate because he's late. And he says he calls Hertz or whatever, and they say, "You can't do that." And he's like, "Man, I'm going through security. Your car is there, the keys are in it. If you want it, you can go get it. But I'm going to Chicago."
So on this one Kat, like everything in category design, thinking about thinking is the most important kind of thinking. And thinking about the problem, and languaging the problem, is insanely powerful and important. And let me give you a couple of examples.
Oh, before I give the examples, the old FROM we need to describe it in a new way that is functionally accurate—not pejorative.
Because if it's pejorative, it sounds like marketing.
Christopher Lochhead 03:28
And so let me give you some examples. SAP in 1998 was not running around telling people they sold on-premise software. On-premise was new Languaging created by Marc Benioff and Salesforce.
That is functionally correct.
It's not pejorative, it's it is accurate.
And he imbued that new term with negative meaning. So he'd say, "Well, you don't want on-premise, do you?" Like you don't want genital cancer, do you? It was functionally accurate, new languaging that was accurately and perfectly descriptive, and then he imbued that with negative meaning. It didn't inherently have it. It worked.
Christopher Lochhead 04:23
Another one of my favorite examples is TiVo.
They had to create a problem, so the problem they created was appointment viewing. That term did not exist before TiVo created the DVR category, and appointment viewing of course. At the time, if your favorite show was on on Wednesday nights at eight o'clock, you had to be free on Wednesday night at eight o'clock to watch that show. And they said, to quote The Big Lebowski, this aggression will not stand man. And so death to appointment viewing and the antidote to a point reviewing (again, new languaging) was what they called Time Shifting.
Christopher Lochhead 05:06
So when you're doing a FROTO, you want to think about what is the FROM problem and name it in a functionally accurate way. And then imbue that descriptive, functionally correct description of the problem with the meaning. In most cases, the negative meaning that you want that languaging to communicate,
Eddie Yoon 05:29
One last thing I would add to it, you can't language the solution until you language the problem.
Christopher Lochhead 05:34
And then one other thing I'll add to that—if you language the problem powerfully, the solution writes itself.
Here's the other crazy thing about the human mind. If you've ever had a medical problem that required, you know, different doctors and specialists and whatever, you might have had this experience. When a doctor communicates your problem more powerfully than you can or anyone else can, you assume that doctor knows how to fix your problem. And that's the way the human mind works. The person who articulates my problem in the most powerful and clear way must have the solution.
The experience we have as human beings is, "You know me, you care about me, you understand me. You must have the solution."
Katrina Kirsch 06:22
Yeah, this kind of reminds me of when all the phone networks could start marketing and advertising against one another. And then they started putting out all the commercials that were like, “Oh, we're better than AT&T. We're better than Verizon. We're better than T-Mobile.”
And it's not necessarily better, right? It's this understanding that how is it different?
Christopher Lochhead 06:43
Category designers don't attack the other company.
See traditional marketing is I attack a competitor. Category design is I attack the status quo. So I'm not attacking a competitor. I'm attacking the paradigm of appointment viewing or the paradigm of installing software on premise. Benioff is not saying that SAP is a piece of shit.