How To Pull Off An Internal Category Design Launch

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If you read my last post, hopefully I convinced you why doing an internal category launch (within your own company) is such an important part of category design.

But how do you going about doing that?

There isn’t much written on the topic, so I thought I’d break down how we did this at BombBomb, where I’m VP Marketing Strategy.

First, here’s a quick refresher on why you need to do this.

An Internal Category Launch Prepares Your Team For What’s to Come

Remember, category design is a business strategy that points your entire company in a new direction. Like any type of organizational change, this shift isn’t going to happen if the people enacting the change aren’t on board.

Category designers use lightning strikes to show customers that they are serious about charting a new course. These lightning strikes break through the noise and get customers to pay attention. You have to do something big and bold because a slow drip of communication won’t jolt people into thinking differently about you.

The same is true for your employees.

Think about an internal category design launch as a lightning strike that’s designed to get your team excited, supportive, and engaged in your category design efforts (for more on this, read 5 Ways to Get Your Whole Company Involved in Category Design).

3 Things You Need To Accomplish with An Internal Category Launch

Just like a good marketing campaign, a successful internal category launch will get your team thinking differently about your company. Here are three things your internal category launch needs to do for your team.

  • Show them the problem. Category designers understand the problem their category addresses better than anyone else. But your company’s employees may not have experienced this pain first hand. Your job is to re-create this pain so your team can empathize with customers.
  • Help them see the vision. Your team won’t be able to support your efforts if your category design plans are an abstract concept. They need a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish as a business, and how category design will help you get there.
  • Give them clarity on next steps. If your team is excited but doesn’t know what will happen next, then you might lose momentum. Your internal category launch should give your team specific things they can do right away to support the effort.

At BombBomb, we pulled this off in two phases – a weeklong Slack campaign that demonstrated the problem we solve, followed by an all-hands meeting where we officially launched our category internally.

Our Slack Campaign: Showing Digital Pollution First Hand

To give you context for our internal category launch, I need to briefly explain the problem our category addresses.

At BombBomb, we help sales teams break through digital pollution.

If you are a salesperson who’s trying to build relationships over email and social media, your job gets more difficult each year. That’s because your recipients’ inboxes are filled with spam, automated emails, poorly executed messages, fake personalization, and other forms of this “digital pollution”.

The result?

Your potential customers are more skeptical than ever about the messages they receive, making it less likely they will ever respond to yours.

Now, remember when I said that your team needs to understand this pain? Most of our team is not in sales. While they might understand this problem, in theory, it’s not something they experience to the degree a salesperson would.

So here’s what we did to turn up that dial.

Our Creative Director and our IT Director put their heads together and created an event that showed our team the impact of digital pollution first hand: a takeover of our company Slack account by malicious bots. OK, not real bots. We created four fake Slack accounts, each run by a different person on our team and representing a different type of digital pollution.

Over a week, our bot operators wreaked havoc on our Slack account, dropping what looked like automated messages, phishing attempts, and spam across our channels and DMs.

One of our four fake Slack bots, Tsesi Inc, was overly enthusiastic about connecting with strangers on LinkedIn. Fortunately, our team started to figure out who she really was before long!

Oh, and we didn’t tell our team that this was happening. Our IT Director even pretended that he was “working on the problem” when people submitted support tickets!

The impact was clear. Our team hated these bots. I mean, they despised them (at least, when they weren’t laughing at how ridiculous they were). But more importantly, our team had a hard time paying attention to legitimate messages because they were too distracted by digital pollution.

Was this scenario exactly like the ones our customers experience?

No, not exactly.

But the event got our team talking about the problem. It caused an emotional reaction, which has a much more lasting impact than any kind of academic explanation could ever have. And most importantly, the event is now part of our culture. We have experienced and dealt with digital pollution collectively, and we are better equipped to solve it together.

Your team doesn’t need to do something this dramatic.

But you do need to have a catalyzing event that helps your team rally around the problem your category solves.

Our Internal Category Reveal

To build on the momentum from our Slackbot takeover, we immediately held an all-hands meeting where we set the stage for the future.

Now, our team already knew we were working on category design. We not only talked about it weekly among our leadership team, but we also gave our entire company regular updates about our progress.

But at this point, we hadn’t revealed our category or shared a narrative for why our category needed to exist.

That’s what our all-hands was for.

We broke the meeting into six parts.

  1. First, we explained what our Slackbot takeover was all about. (Most people caught on to what it was about, but a few were still concerned we’d been hacked!) We talked about why we wanted our team to experience some confusion, some discomfort, and some uncertainty – it was all in the spirit of helping us understand the problem as a company.
  2. With that out of the way, we reminded the team why we brought every single employee together to talk about category design. As I’ve said in earlier posts, category design is an all-company effort. Every department needs to be on board.
  3. Next, the high point. Our CEO walked us through our vision for the category and unveiled the category name itself (we’re calling it human-centered communication). He didn’t just talk through this; he worked with our marketing team to create a dramatic video with music, high-production value, and a tight script.
  4. From there, we walked our team through something we call our category pillars. I’ll share more about this in a future post, but our category pillars are core ideas that we want to address with our product roadmap and messaging.
  5. We then had each department head share what category design would mean for their teams. The idea was to help each person understand that category design was something that would impact them personally and even benefit from their support.
  6. Finally, we ended by giving our team a plan for what we were going to work on next (lightning strikes) and how they could participate.

Here’s what really mattered about that all-hands meeting.

Before it began, our team had a general idea that we were working on category design. They were even pretty excited about it (about ⅔ of our entire company has read Play Bigger, the first book on category design, by that point).

But by the time it was over, they had clarity on what we stood for as a company and how we were going to turn our category into reality.

Instead of relying on a top-down approach, where only a handful of people understand the category vision, we can now distribute that thinking among our team. Our writers, designers, engineers, accountants, and everyone in between can contribute to the category design process.

What Will Your Internal Category Design Launch Look Like?

I shared our process at BombBomb not to give you a template to follow, but to spark your thinking.

We put a lot of thought into planning our internal launch and included several departments involved in the process. The result was something unique that reflected our own culture – and that’s what made it effective.

Put the same effort into thinking about what will work for your own team, and you’ll end up in a good place.

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About the Author

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John Rougeux is VP Marketing Strategy at BombBomb. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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John Rougeux is VP Marketing Strategy at BombBomb. Connect with John on LinkedIn.

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