The (Secret?) Power and Beauty of the #CategoryMeme

A client of mine recently launched their new Category initiative. They are both a technical and customer innovator in a hot, but crowded market, like pretty much all B2B technology innovators are. Their CEO views their #CategoryMeme as one of of their “Secret weapons” to winning in their market. The reception from customers, analysts and investors has surprised them, but honestly, not so much me.

Defining a defensible, meaningful and narrative driven category, creates a #CategoryMeme, an idea that sticks, replicates and spreads in the marketplace of ideas and products. This client has just started on their journey, but already is seeing the power of the #CategoryMeme.

Ideas are more powerful than technology, and #CategoryMemes are ideas that are built to Penetrate the market and create lasting market leadership. Ideas are best communicated through story, and the KJR #ViewpointStory, modeled after Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, is the perfect story framework to carry your #CategoryMeme into the hearts and minds of buyers, investors and influencers.

In my blog series that starts here, I explore the Penetrate, Replicate, Spread Framework for #CategoryMeme success. But the (not so secret) power and beauty of the right #CategoryMeme is perfectly summed up by my client like this…

“It’s going great, people hear us say ‘_______’ {Their #CategoryMeme} and they say yes, tell me more, how can I get one…”

And isn’t that a thing of #CategoryMeme beauty!

Spreading the #CategoryMeme – Enabling, Embedding and Incentivizing

Spreading your #categoryMeme is the third step in our Penetrate, Replicate, Spread framework, and takes off right where Replicate ends, with Enablement, then goes to Embedding and Incentivizing #CategoryMeme spread. We discussed enablement of #CategoryMeme replication in this previous post, and the great news, is the same principles apply when discussing Spreading. Here’s what we said;

Enablement – Once you’ve simplified it, create very sharable, very replicable assets and distribute them out broadly into the marketplace. Create a #CategoryMeme hashtag for your #CategoryMeme. Create a set of backlinks to a more detailed description. Create JPEG, AudioClips, Clipart, all showing and communicating the #CategoryMeme. AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, don’t just create them and share them, but let them fly into the world. Don’t trademark the #CategoryMeme or the artifacts, let the world own them!!! Share with customers, prospects, analysts, and YES EVEN COMPETITORS!!!

So we’ve done most of the work on Enablement, let’s move to Embedding and Incentivizing #CategoryMeme spread. On the topic of Embedding, we turn to our old friend Brodie writing on Meme spreading:

Some of the ways Mind Viruses encourage spreading are (by):

*Programming you with (another) meme like “get the word out before it’s too late” , pushing your “crises” and “window of opportunity” buttons

*Programming you a meme to the effect “teaching this to our children will help them”

* Programming you to evangelize the virus. Some synonyms for evangelize are …passing the favor on and enrollment

….Evangelism is the intentional spreading of memes.

Brodie, Virus of the Mind, Pages 145-146

If we want to create the conditions to encourage the spread of our #CategoryMeme, we need to embed urgency, cross adoption benefit, and membership memes into our #CategoryMeme. “Do it before it’s too late”, “The more who do it, the better it gets for all of us”, “Join the amazing club”, “A call to arms” are all examples of the types of Evangelizing Memes you can embed within your #CategoryMeme to encourage those already “infected with it” to Evangelize and spread it.

Lastly, we may want to Incentivize and catalyze spread through creating both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for spreading the #CategoryMeme. Intrinsic incentives such as the well known (but not very Google discoverable) #culturalMeme in the Jewish Community that if you make 3 “shidduchim”, introductions that lead to marriages, you’ll go straight to olam habah (heaven) . A clear incentive for spreading the religious continuity meme of marriage and procreation. In a business context recognition within the community of practice can be a powerful intrinsic reward. This can be facilitated and encouraged by #CategoryMeme designers through referencing (willing) adopters, and by creating venues and opportunities for them to promote themselves in the context of #CategoryMeme adoption. Extrinsic rewards can include affiliate and referral fees, badges and club identifiers and other tangible assets. (NFTs anyone:)).

So to encourage the spread of our #CategoryMeme, Enable, Embed and Incentivize its spread through the tools of marketing; asset creation and sharing, media and publicity, psychology and incentives, and good old #cash.

In my upcoming final post of this series, I will summarize our Penetrate, Replicate, Spread #CategoryMeme success formula.

Reproducing the #CategoryMeme – Simplify, Enable and Reward Your Marketplace

In order for a #CategoryMeme to spread, the third step of our Penetrate, Replicate, Spread framework, first, it must replicate itself, and do so as Brodie says, “faithfully”. What does this mean? Our prospects and other market participants must be able to easily describe our category, in other words, to parrot our definition. There are three key steps to creating the market environment for #CategoryMeme replication. These are:

  • Simplification – Make it super easy to explain
  • Enablement – Providing the “pre-packaged” artifacts for market adoption
  • Reward – Create rewards for replicating the #CategoryMeme

Let’s take a quick look at each of these.

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid! – Can you write a 1 sentence definition of the category? Can you provide a simple and clear metaphor for it? Can you sketch it clearing on the back of a napkin? Can you explain it to someone who is not part of your market?

Southwest – A New #CategoryMeme: the First Regional Discount Airline!

Enablement – Once you’ve simplified it, create very sharable, very replicable assets and distribute them out broadly into the marketplace. Create a #CategoryMeme hashtag for your #CategoryMeme. Create a set of backlinks to a more detailed description. Create JPEG, AudioClips, Clipart, all showing and communicating the #CategoryMeme. AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, don’t just create them and share them, but let them fly into the world. Don’t trademark the #CategoryMeme or the artifacts, let the world own them!!! Share with customers, prospects, analysts, and YES EVEN COMPETITORS!!!

Reward – Provide feedback to those who replicate (and spread) the #CategoryMeme. Connect with them, make them part of a club, a community of #CategoryMeme lovers.

As Reward bleeds into more structured programmatic work, we then enter the third phase of #CategoryMeme success, Spread, which I will explore in the next blog of this series.

I’ve Been Infected, Not with Covid, But with A Mind Virus- #CategoriesAreMemes #PassItOn ;)!

Before DancingCats, TidePods, BucketChallenges and other “memes” took over the internet, a branch of social science called Memetics was actually built around the idea of Memes. The term Meme was coined more than 40 years ago in the landmark book by Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene“. Dawkins defined a meme as “a unit of human cultural transmission analogous to the gene”, and sees the meme as information that replicates and is passed on. Further developed by others including Dennett in “From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds”, memetics, the study of cultural evolution via the passing of memes from host to host in a society has been bouncing around academic and pop culture circles for decades.

After reading Dennett, I started thinking about how the ideas of memetics applies to Product Category Design and Strategy for my clients. Some quick Google searching convinced me that this is unchartered territory and to a book called “Virus of the Mind – The New Science of the Meme” by Richard Brodie. In this often quirky and new agey book, Brodie offers some basic frameworks on how Memes, what he very pejoratively labels Mind Viruses, spread.

Judgement aside, Brodie’s work is quite interesting when you think of Category Design and Marketing strategies. Brodie says that Mind Viruses work in three phases – Penetration, Faithful Replication and Spreading. What a great roadmap this is to category success.

  1. Penetration – The Category must enter the mind of market participants
  2. Faithful Replication – The participants must be able to mirror and replicate the Category idea
  3. Spreading – The Category needs to spread efficiently and quickly from participant to participant

So, how do we design a Category Meme that can do all of these, in other words, how does the category enter, replicate and spread across the marketplace. That is the $64,000 dollar question, or in many B2B categories, more like the $6.4B dollar one.

I must admit, I am interested and very infected by this idea, but as Mind Viruses go, this is a pretty rich and exciting one to study! In the next series of posts, I will try to unravel the mysteries of Category Design and Success, and how Category Memetics can help us to succeed.

PS – How many Memes can you count in this short post? Let me know your count in the comments – hint, you definitely need at least 2 hands to count them!

Everything I Ever Learned About B2B Messaging…In One Picture!

Sometimes, you just have to net it out! After nearly 14 years as a GTM messaging advisor, this is one of those times. The other week, a client looked at my Messaging Hierarchy and asked, “what are the message deliverables out of this project?” a question I get a lot. And then I realized I had never mapped deliverables to my 4 M Model of “Method, Money, Magic, Mythos”. So I did it and here it is:

At each layer of the model, I’ve listed the core deliverables that any B2B product marketing team eventually needs to drive go to market success. Some, the the Viewpoint Story and the Value Messaging Palette are in my mind, first priority. If I do I great job with these, many of the rest are by-products and/or derivatives of these. And remember, we are still at the “scripting” level of work, we still have to make the Go To Market “Movies”. But remember, just like without a great script, the right audience focus, the right stage design, and the right costume and make-up designs, the movie will probably stink, without these foundational deliverables your demand gen, content marketing, website and other content will be weak, inconsistent and ineffective.

In future blogs I plan on discussing each layer in detail, it’s importance, the related foundational deliverables and their roles in driving customer facing deliverables. But for now, here you have it, everything I’ve ever learned in one model!

Story AND Strategy, The Yin and Yang of B2B Go To Market Success

A few years ago, after completing an engagement with Lee Hecht Harrison in working on the narrative for the launch of what became known as their “Active Placement” service, their then CRO Kevin Gagan said to me:

Ken, when we started, we thought the strategy should drive the story, you taught us that the story should drive the strategy.”

That comment has stuck hard with me. Somedays, I believe Kevin is correct. I see this especially with clients who have great ambition for their offerings, and struggle to narrow down their message for better impact. But when they do, often it creates new strategic focus in many aspects of the go to market, be it product roadmap, packaging, pricing or channels. The story drives the strategy.

Other times, the vision and strategy are very well defined. Often driven by entrepreneurial leaders with an innate sense for the buyer and the customer, the product, packaging and go to market plan are strategically sound, but the story is so narrow that it undersells the offering and doesn’t break through. When you fix that, clearly the strategy is driving the story.

So I decided to ask my LinkedIn connections what they thought.

As you can see, they were somewhat divided, with a plurality saying that Strategy drives story. But I have now landed in the 29% that says it’s a give and take. When story and strategy evolve together, they can create a “virtuous cycle” of a powerful and impactful GTM narrative and mix. Story drives strategy drives story in a never ending dance.

In one Hatha Yoga You-tube class I do, the instructor says,

“Call to mind the sun/moon quality of this pose, the legs are muscularly engaged, while the upper body is crazy soft..”

Strength and flexibility, engagement and relaxation, each reinforced by the other. Story and strategy, the Yin and Yang of B2B Go to Market Success.

May all of you and your customer’s Hero’s Journeys be successful, transformative and rewarding – Namaste – Ken!