Frederieke van Leeuwen
Business Lead Marketing Strategy

How do you determine your category strategy?

We recently received the fantastic news that we may conduct a comprehensive usage and attitude study for a new client. Who? We're keeping that a secret for now. As with any new relationship, we like to stay in our own bubble for a while!

However, I would like to take you back to the presentation of our research proposal. To give some context, upon receiving the briefing I immediately knew: I want to win this one! After thorough consultation with colleagues, we decided to take a risk and go for an approach that was slightly different from what was directly requested, but which we truly believed was the right solution. To get our story across as well as possible, the presentation was prepared extensively and practiced in the mirror that evening. However well prepared the presentation may be, something can always happen that you had not anticipated. So it happened...

While my colleague and I were fervently defending our approach, something extraordinary happened: our client asked himself the critical question whether the scope of the planned research was actually the right one. To be honest: it threw us off course for a moment because our entire proposal was aimed at exploring the category that was now being questioned... On the other hand, it immediately confirmed for us: this is a marketing team we want to work with! Being critical and daring to change course if necessary. Go figure. The discussion around the scope of the category to be researched was put to rest at that moment but not forgotten. Indeed, a crucial question had been uncovered: at what level do we want to be relevant to consumers and what does that mean for the scope of the research?

Just a flush... Meanwhile, we started the project. Collectively, we agreed: before starting the research, we needed to have a clearer picture of the category we were going to investigate and the hypotheses and questions that existed for us and our client. We started with a Strategic Framework session. Using a canvas developed by Blauw, we mapped out the category at different levels. From the more abstract to the very concrete product level. In the canvas we combine elements from How Brands Grow with the old familiar SWOT analysis. Questions that are then answered are:

  • Is the category there for the masses or for a niche?
  • How will the category evolve in the coming years?
  • Who is the consumer and what needs do they have?
  • To what extent can you meet needs in distinctive ways?
  • Who is the competition and what is your competitive advantage?
  • How is the physical availability of your brand in this category?
  • How is the mental availability of your brand in this category?

We learned from the Strategic Framework session that it is difficult to define the category and subcategories, but also that that is okay for this phase of the research. When starting a research project, you may feel the need to already delineate the research as much as possible. After all, as a researcher, you have no control over what comes out of a study, but you do have control over what you ask for! From this session we learned again that, although it sometimes goes against your nature, you have to start with an open mind and let go of the frameworks for a while. That way you give room for surprising insights. And that control? We keep it by reflecting on what we have learned after each step in the research and adjusting the research accordingly. We are very much looking forward to the next step in the process!



Frederieke van Leeuwen
Business Lead Marketing Strategy
Frederieke van Leeuwen