The Power Of A Point Of View: Everything Is The Way It Is Because Someone Changed The Way It Was
Thinking about thinking is the most important kind of thinking.
Dear Friend, Subscriber, and Category Pirate,
Thinking about thinking is the most important kind of thinking.
This is one of our mantras, and if you’ve been reading Category Pirates for the past 6 months (has it been that long already?!), you’ve heard us say this before. That’s because it’s foundational. And not only do we believe it’s worth repeating, but it often takes people a while to truly understand what we mean when we say thinking about thinking is the most important kind of thinking.
You might think you get it—but do you? (Grab a drink and come up on deck!)
Another one of our mantras is this:
90% of what we’ve been taught about entrepreneurship, business strategy, and marketing is wrong.
When we say things like this, we are not trying to be provocative for provocative’s sake.
The core issue is that 100% of what we’ve been taught is based on the past and doesn’t reflect a future where many things might change. Every generation looks and laughs at prior generations and wonders, “How did those prior generations believe that? Look at what we didn’t know!”
Well, why would we assume future generations wouldn’t look at us the same way?
Our job as pirates is to help smart people like you understand the context of what it is you’re looking at and thinking about. And in the world of business, entrepreneurship, and marketing, the vast majority of the conversation (and the advice that gets given as a result) makes one very simple, unconscious, unquestioned, under-discussed mistake:
It assumes the market.
Entrepreneurship advice like, “You want to find product-market fit,” and other business strategies rooted in conventional wisdom start with the way “it is.” For example, “disruption” is tied to “the way it is.” Digital transformation is rooted in “the way it is.” When a company announces on their quarterly earnings call, “We are going to disrupt the manufacturing industry,” what they are really saying (which we would name as their Point Of View) is, “We see and accept the way the world is, and we are going to change the way it currently is to a better way of the way it currently is.”
Now, because what we’re talking about here is particularly nuanced, let us illustrate what we mean by drawing an analogy (pun intended, Arrrrrrr!).
Van Gogh vs Picasso
The beginning of Picasso’s career was spent, to put it bluntly, in Vincent Van Gogh’s shadow.
Van Gogh and other Renaissance Impressionist artists had cultivated a style the world loved. This 19th-century art movement was composed of “relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.” Impressionism was all about capturing the essence of the moment—particularly in terms of time and movement. Some of the most famous Impressionist paintings are Claude Monet’s “Haystacks,” followed by Van Gogh’s “The Wheat Field Behind St. Paul’s Hospital, St. Rémy,” both of which aimed to capture the movement of nature (in the form of textures, colors, and shading).
And while Van Gogh’s style certainly seemed “different,” side by side, it still abided by many of the rules established in impressionism.
(Left: Monet / Right: Van Gogh)
In an analogy, this is how most people in business think about product innovation, digital transformation, and marketing. They start with “what exists,” and then aim to “disrupt” or “change” or “transform” the way it is. They assume the market. They say, “Impressionism is what people clearly want. Let’s do Impressionism, but better.” (7 Minute Abs)
And for 20 years, this is what Picasso did too.
He studied the greats. He learned from the Impressionist artists who came before him. And, using the same set of rules, he composed beautiful works of art that were “better,” but still very much rooted in the past. Put Picasso’s early work beside Van Gogh’s, and you would lump them into the same “category.”
“Thin, visible brush strokes, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, unusual visual angles,” Picasso was still playing by the rules someone else wrote. He might have been executing the rules a bit differently, or with his own “style,” but at the end of the day when the painting was hung to dry, it was still, by every definition, an “Impressionist” (category) painting.
Then, in 1907, a little more than a decade into his career, Picasso began experimenting with a new style of painting.
He and another artist friend called it Analytical Cubism.
Cubism was defined as “simple geometric shapes, interlocking planes, and later, collage,” and predominantly went against the previous definitions of what “beautiful paintings” were supposed to look and feel like. So much so that the earliest Cubism paintings were hidden from the public. When Picasso finished his first large Cubism composition, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” he chose to keep it out of sight for years—fearful the unconventional, angular images of women (tackling unconventional subject matter: prostitutes) would spark controversy.
Today, that painting is valued to be worth $1.2 billion, and (apparently) wins the “If you could only own 1 painting” game among billionaires.
Assuming the market isn’t what made Picasso, Picasso.
Had Picasso continued down the path of Van Gogh, he would have become “a better Van Gogh,” or maybe even “a different Van Gogh.” He’d be considered a great Impressionist artist, but one of many: Monet, Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Renoir, and so on.
Instead, the reason Picasso is one of the most well-known and highly valued artists of all time is because he stopped trying to create the future while simultaneously remaining rooted in the past. Said differently, he “quit” the game of Impressionism and he “created” a new game called Cubism.
Cubism is not “a better type of Impressionism.”
Cubism is not “Impressionism transformed.”
Cubism is not “Impressionism+.”
Cubism is not “Impressionism 2.0.”
Picasso taught the world that Impressionism and Cubism are two completely different things.
They are not comparable.
More importantly, what allowed Picasso to create a new category of art wasn’t just that he called it something different (although the Languaging “Cubism” certainly helped it stick). It was that he also changed the way he defined success—that is to say, he introduced a new Point Of View of what he believed a painting should be.
Impressionist Point Of View: Thin, visible brush strokes; ordinary subject matter; inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience; etc.
Cubism Point Of View: Instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Objects are analyzed, broken up, and reassembled to an abstracted form.
This new POV is what allowed Picasso to break and take new ground—and as a result, allowed customers to understand how and why Picasso was doing what he was doing.
Your POV is the script/soundbites customers use in word-of-mouth marketing.
90% of what we get taught about entrepreneurship, business strategy, and marketing is wrong.
When a company says, “We are going to digitally transform the media industry,” what they are really saying (listen to the words) is, “We are going to take what exists and make it digital.” Something exists. Then this new thing came along. And we’re going to apply the new thing to the old thing, and call the old thing new. They start with the way it is, and aim to make the way it is “better” or “incrementally different.” They are Picasso at age 21, trying to be an Impressionist painter like Vincent Van Gogh, but better.
Benoit Marchant, Founder/CEO of Phront reminds us, “You won’t make a legendary dent on the past.”
This starting point (insignificant and nuanced as it may seem) is what then dictates every single outcome that unfolds. If your POV is bound to the way it already is, then the company has just signed itself up for a lifetime of competition (Picasso vs Van Gogh vs Monet vs Manet vs Renoir, etc.) before it has even started. Because when you start with the way it is (Impressionism), rather than the way it could be (Cubism), you constrain yourself from the start—and you don’t even know it.
The smartest people in business do this every single day.
“We are going to disrupt the hotel industry” = “We accept the hotel industry as it currently exists, and we are going to change the hotel industry based on the already established definition of what the hotel industry is.”
“We are going to transform the taxi industry” = “We accept the taxi industry as it currently exists, and we are going to incrementally change the taxi industry based on the already established definition of what the taxi industry is.”
“We are going to digitize the movie rental industry” = “We accept the movie rental industry as it currently exists, and we are going to incrementally change the movie rental industry based on the already established definition of what the movie rental industry is.”
Founders, investors, bankers, lawyers, the vast majority of the business ecosystem takes whatever is placed in front of them and says, “I accept the premise.” There is very little questioning around whether we are having the right conversation (context) to begin with. As a result, a company’s (or creator’s) POV is unconsciously established (“We are going to incrementally change the future based on the past”), and every product, document, and decision that unfolds from there follows that POV—resulting in a lifetime of comparison.
You can’t create a different future when your starting reference point is the past.
Here’s a recent example.
Newly public enterprise software company, Couchbase, says in it’s S-1 IPO filing:
“Our mission is to empower enterprises to build, manage and operate modern mission-critical applications at the highest scale and performance. Couchbase provides a leading modern database for enterprise applications. Enterprises rely on Couchbase to power the core applications their businesses depend on, for which there is no tolerance for disruption or downtime.”
There is zero “different” in those words.
You could change the name of the company on the document to AWS, Oracle, SAP, MongoDB, Cloudera, and countless others in the database category.
They further write:
“Our database is versatile and works in multiple configurations, from cloud to multi- or hybrid-cloud to on-premise environments to the edge, and can be run by the customer or managed by us. We have architected our database on the next-generation flexibility of NoSQL, embodying a “not only SQL” approach. We combine the schema flexibility unavailable with legacy databases with the power and familiarity of the SQL query language, the lingua franca of database programming, into a single, unified platform. Our cloud-native platform provides a powerful modern database that serves the needs of both enterprise architects and application developers.”
More zero “different.”
Nothing in the language and the Point Of View suggests anything other than, “Here at Couchbase, we provide the same shit as countless other companies in the database space. We take the past, and we make the past better/faster/cheaper/smarter, just like everyone else.”
Let us never forget: there are zero cover bands in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Which is why we say (and will continue to say):
Thinking about thinking is the most important kind of thinking.
And thinking about context might be the most important kind of way to START thinking.
Do you accept the premise?
If you live on the west coast (or have ever taken a vacation to California), then you’ve probably seen pelicans flying around in the sky. These pelicans hunt fish from above, wait for the perfect moment to strike, and then “dive bomb” down into the water and emerge with a fish in their gullets.
If you are one of those fish, you spend your entire life living in water. All you know, and all you’ve ever seen, is water. You “accept the premise.” From the moment you were born, water. Your fish parents, all they ever talk about is water. Your aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, all live happily ever after in water. Not once, ever, do you question whether or not you live in water. Everywhere you see is water. Why would there be anything except water?
Until one day, a pelican swoops down, and scoops you up out of the ocean.
And in 2 seconds, you realize water isn’t the only thing that exists.
And then you’re dead.
This is exactly what happens to companies & creators that “accept the premise.”
One day, you’re the largest “movie rental” retailer in the United States.
The next, all the oxygen has been sucked out of the room and you’re irrelevant.
If you’ve spent your entire career working in manufacturing, “manufacturing” is your water. All you know is manufacturing. Your dad worked in manufacturing, and so did your dad’s dad. You studied manufacturing in college. Your first internship was at a manufacturing facility. And for thirty years, all you’ve done and all you’ve ever known was steel and supply chains and good o’l fashioned manufacturing. You “accept the premise.”
Until one day, somebody comes along with a different POV.
They change the premise—and render your job, your career, and your entire way of life irrelevant.
Because Uber’s POV changed the premise.
POVs move the world from the way it is to a new, different way. (Everything is the way it is because somebody changed the way it was.)
Why were hotels suing Airbnb, calling them “illegal hotels” (notice how they used old language to drag this new thing back into their old world)?
Because Airbnb’s POV changed the premise.
Anytime a company begins its journey rooted in the past, it is making the unconscious, undiscussed, unquestioned decision to “accept the way it is,” in no way challenging the current paradigm on any meaningful level. As a result, its POV, and everything written and communicated emerges from this perspective: “It’s today, we accept the way things are today, and our goal is to help make today, better, faster, cheaper, tomorrow.”
And all of that screams one thing and one thing only:
You are not creating an exponentially different future.
You are Blockbuster, but better.
Instead, here’s how Category Designers think:
The world is not the same way it was yesterday.
We REJECT the premise. And we are going to act as if the tomorrow we’re creating already exists, today.
Our friend, Mike Maples Jr., calls this “Backcasting.”
“Legendary builders must stand in the future and pull the present from the current reality to the future of their design. People living in the present usually dislike breakthrough ideas when they first hear about them. They have no context for what will be radically different in the future. So an important additional job of the builder is to persuade early like-minded people to join a new movement.”
And how do you give people context that excites them enough to meet you in the future and join a new movement?
You give them a new Point Of View they can grab onto—and can repeat to their friends, who will tell their friends, and so on, and so on.
Pirates reject the premise.
Of course, when you introduce a new POV to the world, what happens?
99% of the time, you get criticized—which is exactly what happened to Picasso.
“Early Cubist paintings were often misunderstood by critics and viewers because they were thought to be merely geometric art. Yet the painters themselves believed they were presenting a new kind of reality that broke away from Renaissance tradition, especially from the use of perspective and illusion.”
The most effective POVs aim the conversation in such a different direction that it’s oftentimes hard for the masses to understand (or accept) what this new POV might mean for the world.
Here are a few powerful examples:
These two words reveal a radically different Point Of View of the world—of which many (diseased) folks have a very hard time accepting.
“Equal pay for equal work.”
There was a time in history where it was the law that men and women did not earn the same amount of money.
Then, a new POV was introduced, adopted, and “The Equal Pay Act” was signed in 1963.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration ordered U.S. immigration enforcement agencies to change how they talk about immigrants. Why? Because words matter. And referring to immigrants as “illegal aliens” reinforces (at scale) one POV—whereas “undocumented noncitizen” reinforces another. “This is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to… build what they call a more ‘humane’ immigration system.” The current U.S. government is doing something that has never been done before: distinguishing “illegal aliens” from migrants on the southern border begging for asylum.
They’re two different types of people.
(We are not expressing anything political here. We’re just underscoring how POVs work at both the societal and business level. Because human beings respond to POVs.)
With two words, Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, created what became the Cloud Computing category.
“Don’t Go There, Live There”
This tagline is a POV. And it changes everything. AirBnB did not say, “We’re better than hotels.” They attacked the old category (“being a tourist”) by creating a different category that produced a different experience. And once people saw this legendary, different POV, they couldn’t unsee it.
AirBnB stopped people in their tracks: “I never thought about travel like that.” And with their category designing POV, they dam’d the demand for hotels. (And made hotel owners damn mad, Arrrrr! 🏴☠️)
In order to change the world, and unlock exponential breakthroughs, you have to reject the premise.
You can’t start with Impressionism and aim to make it better.
You have to Stop. Change. And Start again.
You have to invent Cubism.
Category Design + POV + Languaging
What creates the category is your POV.
And what crystalizes your POV is Languaging.
Let’s walk through how this works.
Step 1: Category Design...The Future
An easy way of understanding whether you are accepting or rejecting the premise is by questioning whether you are Forecasting or Backcasting.
Which direction are you facing?
Standing in the past, looking forward, thinking about the future.
Standing in a different future, and living “as if” that different future already exists today.
This might seem like an inconsequential nuance, BUT, it is the starting point that defines the entire trajectory of your company (and/or any creative act). If you start with the way the world “is,” and then try to make the way it “is,” different, you are making an unconscious decision to improve within the context of a game someone else invented.
You are competing.
But if you start with the way it “could be,” if you assume the possible and stand in the future, you give yourself the opportunity to write new rules to the new game you are inventing.
You are unencumbered by the past and present.
You are creating.
Forecasting or Backcasting is what decides whether you are creating a new category (and then educating people on the new and different benefits that get unlocked as a result) or competing within an existing category (and emphasizing why the benefits you provide customers/consumers/users are “better”).
From there, you must prosecute The Magic Triangle in order to successfully create your new category.
Step 2: Visit The Future For POV Hypotheses
How do you visit the future? Let us show you the lenses that let you take a sneak peak.
Do our category’s customers have “Stockholm Syndrome”? Can we set them free?
Stockholm Syndrome is when abuse victims and captives have positive feelings towards their abuser/captor. Well, the same can be said for customers, consumers, and users who become so desensitized to the negative experiences familiar to the category that they stop wondering what else might be possible if these negative experiences never existed in the first place.
*If you can design and free the category customers from the “abuse” they’ve grown accustomed to, you will have an amazing POV.
If Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Bob Woodward wrote a book about your category… what would they say?
Imagine what breakthrough insight one of these legendary authors may reveal to the world, fundamentally changing the way the masses thought about your category of “thing.” What truths would they uncover? Who would be their heroes and villains? What might they write that would make all the incumbents hang their heads in shame? What could they write that might bring us to tears of gratitude that someone noticed? What would the verdict of history be?
That’s a POV worth sharing with the world.
What does the category look like if you gave your Superconsumers infinite power & resources?
What would a “cleaning Superconsumer” do with unlimited power and resources? Probably create a daily hotel cleaning service for their home? Well, that’s the POV of an iRobot Roomba, where you can clean your house every day (or several times a day if you wanted) with the tap on your phone.
What would a “coffee Superconsumer” do with unlimited power and resources? Maybe hire a personal Barista at home? Isn’t that what Keurig does today, providing hundreds of choices of coffee so you can pick what you want, when you want it?
What would a “music Superconsumer” do with unlimited power and resources? Create a device to hold 1,000 songs in their pocket (the original iPod)? Create a database with access to millions of songs streamed at their pleasure (Apple Music)?
To imagine the future unconstrained from the past, play The Breakthrough Game from the perspective of your Superconsumers with unlimited power & resources, and you will catch a glimpse of the future.
Step 3: Writing Your POV
Once you’ve glimpsed the future, you need to plant your flag and tell people how the future will be different.
It’s time to write your POV.
Now, we want to be very clear about something: just because you have a quippy tagline doesn’t mean you have a POV.
The vast majority of companies unconsciously choose to compete within existing categories rather than create new ones (mistake number 1). Then, they compound the stupidity by pairing their undifferentiated category with a *meaningless* tagline (mistake number 2).
Here’s the proof:
New Thinking, New Possibilities
Whose tagline is this? Maybe it’s a Think Tank? An innovation lab? NASA? A neuroscience institute? Maybe it’s the tagline for a new Alzheimer's drug?
This, by the way, is the “new and improved” version of their old tagline, which was “Drive Your Way.” As if, in a brand new Range Rover, you don’t get to “Drive Your Way.” New Ferrari? You don’t get to “Drive Your Way” either. New BMW? New Mercedes? Nope, it’s only Hyundai where you get to “Drive Your Way.”
It means nothing.
More importantly, this tagline does not reflect any new and different POV customers can grab onto, internalize, and then use as the script to tell their friends and family what makes Hyundai “DIFFERENT.”
Here’s another one.
Whose tagline is this?
Maybe it’s an athleisure company? Or maybe it’s a company that makes jockstraps? Or groin cream? Anti-chafing boxers?
Then (if you want your head to really explode), after *running* with that tagline for a while, they decided to change it to: “The Best Run.” Listen to the words. “We accept the way the world is, and we want to help you do what you’re already doing, better.” They probably spent $10 million and 11 months hiring Whoever & Whoever (a subdivision advertising agency under WPP) helping them come up with that. And it means nothing.
No new “different” POV.
What makes this even more insane is that SAP’s customers (for the most part) are large, multinational corporations. The last thing they are is “simple.” They are massively complex. Simplicity is in no way what they want in ERP software. What they want is the ability to effectively, with precision, run gigantic omni-channel, multi-country, multi-currency, multi-business-model, complex-multi-product/service line, complex-ecosystem-and-multi-business-unit businesses (say that five times fast).
Nothing about what these megaprises want is “simple.”
SAP is unconsciously announcing to the world, “We do the same thing as everybody else, but we’re the best.”
OK, so what happens when Oracle says they’re the best, and Salesforce says they’re the best, and everybody else says they’re the best?
Then who is the best?
The rule of thumb here is that if your tagline, and subsequent POV can easily work for someone else, that means you don’t have a POV.
You have meaningless brand a tagline (that could be used by lots of other companies).
Substack’s POV (“A place for independent writing”) wouldn’t work for The New York Times. And that’s the point. That’s why Substack is seen as “different.” Because they don’t see the world the same way.
Another example, and one of Pirate Cole’s personal favorite POVs is Vinebox: “Premium wine by the glass.”
Notice how the tagline isn’t really “a tagline” in the way the marketing world loves giggling over clever puns and inane throw away nursery rhyme sayings. It’s actually the company’s POV. “We believe premium wines are delicious, but committing to buying an entire bottle of premium wine only to not enjoy what you’ve just bought is a terrible experience. So instead, we ship you vials of premium wine by the glass—and then any you really like, you can buy a full bottle of as well.”
That’s a radically different POV!
“Premium wine by the glass” doesn’t work for 99% of wine manufacturers, all of whom sell bottles of wine. In fact, if you were a marketing executive in the room and you suggested this POV and tagline, you would be met with hostile rejection. “What are you crazy?! We can’t sell our wine by the glass. We sell it by the bottle, you idiot!”
The number of people Pirate Cole has told about Vinebox is astonishing. And every single time, he repeats the same phrase over and over again—which is the script the company gave to him. “Oh, it’s premium wine by the glass. You order a box, they send you a bunch of vials of different wines, and then you can do a wine tasting at home.”
Pirate Cole isn’t just doing “word-of-mouth marketing” for Vinebox.
He is repeating, and scaling, the POV of the company. (FYI: Pirate Christopher would never buy from Vinebox because he thinks wine makers should make the bottles BIGGER and can’t understand why anyone would want just a glass!?.... Different categories, different Superconsumers.)
This same foundational principle is true for all products and services, works of art, physical and metaphysical objects—anything in the world we give “value.”
For example, in the enterprise software category where Pirate Christopher grew up, most “buyers” issue RFPs (Request For Proposals) to “vendors” in a given category.
This is the B2B equivalent of the muscle man bikini contest.
Buyer issues an RFP.
Vendors respond to the RFP.
All the vendors compete against each other for the business (“Pick me! Pick me!”).
One vendor “wins.”
But any good enterprise tech salesperson knows there are two kinds of vendors.
The vendor (singular) that helps the customer write the RFP.
And the vendors (plural) that respond to the RFP.
Can you guess who wins the business?
The person who writes the RFP with the customer—because they’re best “positioned” to respond to their own “Request For Proposals.”
Your POV is the RFP for the whole category. And this is true both in B2B and B2C.
Your POV becomes the raison d’etre for why customers are doing and spending what they are doing and spending. (“Don’t go there, live there.”) Your POV is the True North justification for why customers are making the investment they are making. (Either to their spouse in B2C or boss in B2B). And a powerful category POV is the radically different “air cover” that ground troops (salespeople) need in order to get into sales opportunities. For example, Salesforce’s sales reps never had to deal with buyers who thought the Cloud was a stupid idea. Because the “No Software” POV attracted visionary customers and repelled buyers who “needed” to own the software. Same for AirBnB. These are legendary examples of “making the market come to you” vs “go-to-market.” And category POV marketing (vs “I’m better than you” brand marketing) tends to lower the cost of customer acquisition—because the sales teams deal almost exclusively with prospects who “get it.”
How To Create Your POV.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” —Albert Einstein
Legendary POVs have a simple architecture.
Frame a different problem/opportunity.
Most people point to the “No Software” POV as a strategic component of Salesforce’s success in designing a category. And it was. But most people also forget that Salesforce successfully Framed, Named, and Claimed the problem with the old category as well—and they did so with new Languaging.
They called the old thing “On premise.”
SAP and Siebel didn’t call their stuff “on premise.” Salesforce re-framed the old category with a functionally correct, new description, and then imbued “on premise” with massive negative connotations. “You don’t want ‘on premise’ do you?” (As if they were saying, “You don’t want genital bacterial leprosy, do you?”)
Netflix did exactly the same thing in the B2C space, calling “appointment viewing” a massive problem. “Why wait until Thursday at 8pm to watch what you want to watch? You should be able to watch TV when you want to!”
More recently, our friends at HalloApp (a hot Silicon Valley startup created by two WhatsApp guys) just launched their “Real Relationship Network” with the POV that you should be able to “share your real life, with your real friends, digitally, in private.” This is a very different POV than that of traditional social media networks that track and attempt to monetize everything you do on their platforms.
Evangelize a different future.
When Pirate Christopher was CMO of enterprise software “juggernaut,” Mercury, they created the “Business Technology Optimization” category with the POV “Run IT Like A Business.”.
The idea was: if Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is about optimizing the “back-end” of the business, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is about optimizing the “front-end” of the business, then BTO is about optimizing the “business of IT.” Thus, “Run IT Like A Business.”
This immediately made Mercury the company that could help CIOs deliver business outcomes (vs technical “IT outcomes”), and put Mercury’s competitors into a nit-norky technical box they could never get out of. The BTO POV not only created a category for Mercury to dominate, it also gave customers a mantra—a rally cry and reason to do things differently.
The moment your POV becomes an agenda for your customers, you know you have something.
Show customers how your “solution” bridges the gap from the problem/opportunity to the different future.
“Take one 5-Hour Energy and it won’t feel like 2:30 anymore.”
5 Hour Energy’s early marketing is a great example of legendary category marketing with a legendary POV. All in 30 seconds.
Pirate Cole did this with his ghostwriting & thought leadership agency, Digital Press. Instead of selling “blog posts,” his business sold the outcome of “thought leadership”—which solves a very different problem and unlocks a very different future than, “We need content for our company blog.”
As a result, “thought leadership” became an agenda item on every company’s Marketing To Do list (whether they previously thought they needed it or not). And in 2 years, Pirate Cole’s agency wrote on behalf of more than 300 company executives, Silicon Valley startups, angel investors, venture capitalists, and more.
Instead, most marketers think tactically:
“I should buy Google ads.”
They do this to capture demand.
But almost no one asks, strategically, “What makes a customer Google something in the first place?”
The answer is a POV.
POVs cause lightbulbs to go off in consumers' heads, and to consider the new and different.
“Hey I’ve been hearing about cloud databases….I need to check that out…I’m going to Google the words ‘Cloud Database.’
Or, in the B2C space: “WOW… an eBike?…. I need to check that out….I’m going to Google this new word eBike I just heard."
Most importantly, the company that evangelizes the POV is immediately viewed as the leader. Because the only companies customers have ever seen market the category (and not the brand: “We’re the best!”) is the category leader.
A few other POV favorites of ours:
Keurig: “Single-serve coffee.” It’s not a cup of coffee you buy from a coffee shop. It’s not a pot of coffee you find leftover in the office kitchen. It’s a pod you put in a device and voila: a single cup of fresh, hot coffee—made just for you, by you.
iRobot: “Robot vacuum cleaner.” It’s not a vacuum cleaner “with more horsepower.” It’s not a vacuum cleaner with more knobs, bells, suction tubes, and whistles. It’s a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t require you to vacuum on a daily basis. WOW!
Royal Canin: “Tailored health nutrition for cats & dogs.” It’s not “better” dog and cat food. It’s personalized dog and cat food that is breed specific. It’s a different thing.
SLO AXE: “Mobile Axe Throwing.” Why go to an axe throwing bar (yes this is a new category) when the axe throwing can come to you! (Pirate Christopher’s family just did this and it was a blast!)
Step 4: Languaging
Most companies don’t design new categories.
Even fewer design new categories and then consciously, intentionally, and carefully construct a POV customers/consumers/users can hear once, internalize, and then repeat to their friends and family.
But the most legendary companies do both of the above, plus one more step:
They invent new language for the new POV and new category of “thing” they are creating.
This is what we call Languaging: the strategic use of language to change thinking.
Sushirrito: “The original sushi burrito.” It’s not sushi. And it’s not a burrito. Calling it a “sushi burrito” would have been enough to get the point across, but they went a step further and used Languaging to create a new word for their new thing. Because they are different and solve a different problem: How do you eat sushi on the go? A “Sushirrito” is NOT easily replaceable or comparable with a regular sushi restaurant who competes on price, quality, and location.
Selfie: It’s a picture of yourself, taken by yourself. But it’s not enough to just say, “It’s a picture of yourself, taken by yourself.” The idea *sticks* and *spreads* when you use Languaging and CALL IT SOMETHING DIFFERENT. “A picture of yourself, taken by yourself, is called a… Selfie.”
The Tipping Point: This group of words is defined by Malcolm Gladwell to mean, “That magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” But just saying that isn’t what makes the idea *stick.* What makes it stick is taking that idea and then calling it something new and different. That magic moment? That moment is called “The Tipping Point.”
Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE): This communication protocol lets applications “call” each other, which Microsoft created as a critical technical criteria for products in the “Productivity Suite” category.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) This is a protocol named and developed by Netscape for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. SSL became an industry standard for transmitting private data securely, in part because Netscape made it a priority through new Languaging.
In technical/technology oriented categories, new standards, protocols, architectures, and frameworks matter. A ton. And to make new technical standards stick, you need to create new Languaging standards. (Just like Starbucks did in the B2C space with “Grande Latte.”)
The reason new Languaging works is simple.
You can’t use old words to describe new things. People don’t buy it.
Languaging, in the context of category design and writing the POV of the company, can either take the form of 1) inventing new words and/or language for the new ideas you are looking to communicate, or 2) modifying old words with new words for the new ideas you are looking to communicate.
“Sushirito” is a new word.
“Selfie” is a new word.
“Electric Car” is an old word (Car) modified with a new word (Electric).
“Cryptocurrency” is an old word (Currency) modified with a new word (Crypto).
What creates the category is your new and different POV.
And what crystalizes your POV is Languaging.
This is how people “get” what you’re talking about.
Everything else is just better/faster/cheaper/smarter/stronger noise.