Episode 37: Josh Lowman

In our final episode, Gil talks category creation with Josh Lowman, Founder of Gold Front. Josh has worked with leading startups such as Uber, Robinhood, and Newsela to build category-defining brands.

You’ll walk away from this episode with an understanding of the process involved in creating a new category, from strategy to implementation.

Takeaway 1. There are six different category creator archetypes

When most people think about a category-defining brand, the first thought that usually pops into mind is a highly innovative company. A startup with a unique solution or technology, and a team is on a mission to disrupt the status quo. According to Josh Lowman, these startups fall under the innovator category archetype. And they are just one of six category creator archetypes that exist. The other archetypes include the overlooked, emergent, second act, better, and huckster.

The overlooked archetype is another classic archetype, similar to the innovator. This type of startup usually has a unique product but ends up getting lumped into the wrong category. Customers may not know how to describe it. And rather than coming up with a new name, they may use an already existing category name to understand the product’s value. As a result, overlooked category creators need to figure out how to use the right messaging to break out of the wrong category.

Sometimes a company has already succeeded in creating a category. The next step is to expand into an adjacent market when this happens. This is the second-act archetype. And the goal for this archetype is to capitalize on the category’s initial success to capture a new segment of users. Often this involves launching a new product line that addresses a new set of pain points.

Takeaway 2. Innovation is not the same as creating a category

A key thing to understand about category creation is that innovation is not always equal to category creation. You could have the most innovative solution, but that won’t guarantee that you’ll create a new category. And as a startup, you’ll need to look beyond what your technology offers and instead focus on making your story more compelling to your target market.

The midpoint where your brand promise intersects with your technological innovation is where category creation happens. People need to use your product before they can appreciate its innovation. The companies that win a category aren’t always the most innovative. Instead, they succeed because they are better at communicating their value to the market than everyone else.

A strategic narrative is how you engage with your audience in a meaningful way. The most effective strategic narratives put the customer in focus. They also go beyond product features and generic storytelling cues that most startups follow and get people to buy into a greater vision. Think of it as a story where your customer is the protagonist, and your solution is the thing that helps them on their quest.

Takeaway 3. Creating a strategic narrative is like writing a movie screenplay

Movies and strategic narratives have a lot in common. In screenwriting, the event that starts off the main character’s journey is known as the inciting incident. In a strategic narrative, it’s called the shift. And this happens when someone from your target market finds out they have a problem and then looks for the best solution.

A compelling strategic narrative consists of two things: the thing that you’re inventing and how your customers will understand it. A common misconception is that the marketing department of a startup creates it. This isn’t true. A strategic narrative is part of a broader company strategy and not a brand strategy.

Everyone needs to be involved, from the CEO and Chief Product Officer to the CMO and sales department. Collaboration makes it easier to create standard agreement on the north star metric and product roadmap. And it also ensures that everyone works together towards proving that your product can deliver everything that it promises.

For more insights on category design, strategy, and implementation, be sure to listen to this episode of B2B category creators.


Josh tells what questions you should ask before creating a new category.

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