Every major market category consists of subcategories. These subcategories are usually dominated by different players. If you’re like many companies you tend to focus on market share within the larger category. But unless you’re among the top 3-5 players this approach may not pay off. Another approach to consider is pursuing ownership of one of the subcategories. So while a big player may dominate a market category, you can be the leader in the subcategory. Category ownership provides an additional metric of marketing performance.
Every major market category consists of subcategories. These subcategories are usually dominated by different players. If you’re like many companies you tend to focus on market share within the larger category. But unless you’re among the top 3-5 players this approach may not pay off. Another approach to consider is pursuing ownership of one of the subcategories. Some experts believe creating your own category is the best route to market success and revenue growth. Category ownership provides an additional metric of marketing performance.
Defining Category Ownership
Before we discuss how you might measure category ownership, let’s be clear about what constitutes a major category and its subcategories. For example oral care products is a major market category and some of its subcategories are mouth rinses, toothbrushes, toothpastes, and dental floss. So while Colgate-Palmolive is the worldwide leader in Oral Care, Oral B (a Gillette brand) is the leader in the toothbrush category. We can see this same scenario in other categories, such as the retail market, where Wal-Mart with 6,000 outlets and more than $250 billion in sales, dominates the overall category but Amazon owns the online retailer space and iTunes is the number one music retailer in the world. The software market provides another illustration of the concept of category ownership. Microsoft can lay claim to the larger software category, but Oracle can claim ownership of the database software category, SAP can claim ownership in ERP software and Intuit owns financial software.
The message here is that you do not have to have significant market share in the major category in order to become a category owner. While a subcategory initially can be very small, a niche that meets a key market and customer need has significant growth potential.
The Key to Category Ownership
The key to category ownership is to redefine how customers or businesses use a product in order to establish a category. If you are the first to create a category (no easy feat) you will be in the best position to own it. It is very expensive to create and develop a category, but once you establish your company as the category owner the ROI is substantial. When you are evaluating a subcategory consider establishing the subcategory around how it will be viewed by the customers- both users and buyers- in terms of their needs, concerns, and buying requirements. Once you have a category you will want to define how you measure your ownership and the role marketing will play.
Initial Category Ownership Metrics
There are two initial metrics that may be the easiest to use to monitor changes in ownership that marketing can affect:
– Your percentage of the category’s sales
– Your percentage of the customer usage rate
These are good metrics to start with but as you become more sophisticated about how you measure ownership you may want to go beyond monitoring ownership in terms of current sales and use category ownership strength as a metric.
Category Strength as a Metric
Category Strength as a metric accounts for three variables: competitors, your degree of risk and your market relevance. These variables require examining more than your sales but also your product innovation and customer relationships. If you are already a category owner now may be time to develop and use category ownership strength as a metric.