The Intersection of Community + Category Design
After 10+ years working in the field of online communities, I’m always on the lookout for something new, different, and dynamic about this work. My curiosity was sparked when my friend Pablo Gonzalez turned me on to the book Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney. It’s a fascinating read about business, innovation, category design, and category kings. As I read it, I could hear and see the importance of Community in almost every example, even when Community wasn’t explicitly discussed. This book left me intrigued and questioning things…
Where does Community come into the picture in the process of category design? How essential is it to today’s category designers? Which of the category kings currently have dedicated online Communities (not just social media accounts)?
Let me back up a little though to bring you up to speed, because you’re probably wondering “What the heck is Jenny talking about?” Some definitions, from Play Bigger:
Category Design: The process of defining and planning out a new business category. Play Bigger covers this entire process.
Category King: “The most exciting companies create. They give us new ways of living, thinking, or doing business, many times solving a problem we didn’t know we had—or a problem we didn’t pay attention to because we never thought there was another way…They don’t sell us better. The most exciting companies sell us different. They introduce the world to a new category of product or service…” Examples include: Uber’s on-demand transportation and Salesforce’s software-as-a-service. Category Kings are not always the FIRST to create a category, but because they offer something different, they dominate the category.
As I read through the book, I documented each category king company that was mentioned. Then, I conducted a little research to find which of them have a Community today. What I found was that approximately half of the category kings mentioned in the book have active Communities today. IMHO, that can’t be a coincidence. There’s synergy between Community and category design, and I’ll be exploring that more in future posts here on Substack. In the meantime, check out the list below of category kings and their communities.
(Note: Every company listed below has been a category king at some time and not all are still kings today. Also, the communities listed are only what was available via public search. It’s possible there are more communities that are private.)
**By the way, if anyone knows of any communities for category designers, please do let me know!**
Adobe (bought Macromedia, a category king)
Amazon/Amazon Web Services
SpaceX Community (not affiliated with the company)
Tesla Motors Club (not affiliated with the company)
**UPDATE: The 3 free copies have been claimed. Congrats to Philippa, Hannah, and Valentina!**
If you’ve read this far, it’s your lucky day! In celebration of my birthday, I want to gift 3 free copies of Play Bigger to my subscribers. Be one of the first 3 subscribers to respond to this email with “I want to know more about category design!” and I’ll be in touch to provide you with your complimentary copy. (Selfishly, I’m hoping more community professionals will read this book and want to have deep discussions with me on how community and category design work together.) Please know that I will be double-checking my subscriber list to ensure that anyone who emails me is definitely on it.