When a brand takes over the category

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw


Unreasonable men and women are the category creators, you can see their Utopian vision in the products they build. Building a category creator is a long, tiring but rewarding journey. When I asked Pat Grady (Investor in $HUBS, $NOW) about HubSpot’s journey, he said that during the initial years, almost every quarter was a slog. The real hockey stick growth started after 5 long years of founding.

Sales cycles tend to be longer than a traditional SaaS company because your marketing and sales teams are first educating customers about your philosophy, before talking about your product. If that was not enough, you run into product adoption challenges as well. Your solution is a new way of working for customers. You’ll need to invest heavily in educating your customers. With high CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) and low LTV (high churn, low lifetime value), it’s very hard to build a sustainable SaaS business.

Perhaps, it’s no surprise that even a company like Apple had to go through this.


They say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The ultimate return for a category creator is when it’s “Brand” starts taking over the “Category”.

Inbound Marketing vs HubSpot

HubSpot coined the term “inbound marketing”, they wrote a book, built Inbound.org – a community for inbound marketers, launched Inbound Marketing certification to educate the world about this new category. It took time, money, and effort. If you look today, people directly search for HubSpot more than Inbound Marketing on Google.


CRM vs Salesforce

Salesforce was not the first CRM, but they were the first ones to make CRM available on the cloud. When they went public, their stock ticker was $CRM. They did that to raise awareness among the public about CRM software. If you look at Salesforce’s performance, they really started taking off in 2010, the same time when their brand was taking over the CRM category.


eCommerce vs Shopify


Taxi vs Uber


Food Delivery vs Swiggy


So has your brand taken over the category yet? Until then, keep fighting 🙂

Thanks to Tejaswi Raghurama for reading drafts of this.

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