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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Creating a new category based on what it's NOT. (Or, "It's NOT a seminar, it's a "Social," dude!)

Champagne I love brand categories. Because people think in categories. For instance, I think to myself, "Self, I'm in the mood for a cup of coffee." No, no wait...I'm in the mood for a specialty coffee. Nah, what I'm really hankering for is hazelnut coffee--ergo, I'm gonna pop into Dunkin' Donuts for a cup."

And when I think cola? There's no substitute for the real thing (and preferably in a glass bottle like momma used to drink).

But what I'm really in love with is coining new categories. Yet while amazingly fun and fruitful, the process is truly challenging. So choose, and name!, your new categories wisely.

And even then be prepared to have to explain, re-explain, really, really explain and then explain until you're blue in the face, both what your category IS....as much as what your new category Is NOT.

Let's take a recent (and fabulous!) example with Blogger Social. We coined it "Blogger Social" because it IS for marketing bloggers and it's wholly, completely, totally and fully a social event. Let's face it, the name ain't even clever but it got the point across. (note: categories shouldn't necessarily be clever but explanatory. For example, the brand names "Red Bull" and "Grey Goose" are clever, but their brand categories of "high-energy drink" and "high-end vodka" are explanatory.)

So what is Blogger Social not? It's NOT for people who don't blog and it's neither tradeshow...nor conference...not a seminar...and nowhere near an industry summit.

I'm not saying that smart stuff won't be discussed (nor am I saying that really smart folks won't be attending), I'm just saying that it's not the kind of event where you stand up and address the audience on how marketing has changed. Nope, it's the kind of event-filled weekend where you run around the city--with those that you already discuss how marketing has changed every other day of the year-- to see many sites, many colleagues and newfound friends, until all hours of the night (true to the category, our events socialize until 4am).

And it definitely isn't the kind of event where you have exhibitor booths or keynote speeches. Why? Because it's a social, dude! Now, we as event planners think, hey, it's really, really super obvious and oh-so-crystal clear what this is, and, more to the point, what it's not.

But that's the thing about creating new categories, it's a bit of an uphill climb for the marketer and a mountain of a learning curve for those we're marketing to. Why? Because new categories--be they in tech, fashion, media or manufacturing--are, well, new.

And while the value of flying into a designated city--driven only by the value proposition of having time (and much fun!) together for a very special weekend is obvious to many, we need to be sensitive that it's not obvious to all.

But what have I found that's really funny since we announced it June 1, 2007? When I tell my friends about it that do not blog--yes, I have many friends that only use computers for spreadsheets, musical scores and production schedules--they instantly get it. Why?

Because they only do the very simple act of putting the two words "Blogger + Social" together and say..."Oh, so you're holding a weekend full of events."

Ck_social08b_2 But many folks that are marketers (who are not active in the online marketing community) have very much struggled with it. Why? Because they're working to nestle the event under an existing 'category'. (And they can't figure out why myself and so many others would do all this planning on a pro-bono basis.)

They keep asking me things like, "So how many conference tracks will you have?" or "Do I know anyone who will be speaking at it?" Or my all-time favorite of "CK, are you going to hold a happy hour or special dinner along with it?" (they too find that many conferences leave little time for networking and fun).

Alas, it has been so much fun getting this new event category off the ground, but it's certainly underscored for me just how challenging creating new categories can be--precisely because of what new categories are not.

PS: In all honesty, those guys up there didn't understand the event category either...actually, they didn't really care, they were just excited to have their picture on these things they've heard of called "blogs". (Which to them, are a new category of "websites" ;-).


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At Blogger Social happy hour will be from dawn to dawn, won't it?

@Lewis: Ha!I think it's "happy hoursSSS" becuz they do go long. As I told Drew, "Our mixer is from 7p - 4a, OK?" and he said "Well, that's a whole lotta mixing!"

Hey, we promised you guys time together. What's the good of a new category if we don't deliver on the value proposition?

We live in a life full of categories. In fact, I'm not sure what will happen if people finally let go of such thing. Trivial as they may sound, I think there's a possibility that we would all collapse without them. And you're right. In the end, who cares if it's a blogger social or a seminar as long as everyone is enjoying themselves, right?

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