Positioning and Category Creation: The Startup's Blueprint for Shaping Market Landscapes

The Bold Startup Strategy for Market Dominance Through Positioning

Positioning in a market category of your own has the power to mold customer perception.

Sep 2023

Positioning is a central theme when discussing category creation, as it involves deliberately placing a brand or product in a unique space within the consumer's mind.

Positioning isn't merely about gaining a foothold in a saturated market; it's about creating a new playing field entirely. For startups, category creation through positioning has the potential to redefine market dynamics and etch a brand's legacy.

Crafting Categories: The Bold Startup Strategy for Market Dominance Through Positioning

Positioning has always been pivotal. Category creation, an audacious form of positioning, allows a company to not just introduce a new product but pioneer an entirely new market category. Through strategic positioning, they shape consumer perceptions and behaviors surrounding this new category.

Sometimes you must shape an entirely new market category because the introduction of your innovative product goes beyond an adaption to consumer perceptions: The customer wouldn’t even care thinking about buying a less comfortable and more expensive taxi ride from the airport, unless it is a helicopter ride during NYC rush hour.

Positioning in a market category of your own has the power to mold customer perception.

What is Category Creation and its Link to Positioning?

Positioning, in this context, refers to the deliberate decisions made to craft and present the brand's unique value proposition in the consumer's mind, aligning it with the new category's vision.

When tied to category creation, this positioning aligns seamlessly with the vision of the nascent category, paving the way for market recognition.

Visionary Thinking

Recognizing a unique market need and positioning the brand to address it in a groundbreaking way.

Differentiation through Positioning

Using positioning to delineate how this new category is distinct from existing solutions.

Salesforce: By positioning themselves with the "No Software" campaign, Salesforce shaped the SaaS space, moving beyond just cloud-based CRM.

Leadership Positioning

Aspiring to position the company as the category leader, setting standards, and defining the narrative for the entire category.

Airbnb: Positioned not as another hotel service but as a platform for "shared economy" and "local travel experiences", Airbnb carved its unique category.

Challenges of Category Creation for Startups

  1. Resource Intensity: Crafting a new category through positioning requires resources for market education and brand-building.
  2. Market Skepticism: Overly novel positioning can lead to resistance, as consumers may initially struggle to align with the new category.
  3. Potential for Competition: Effective positioning can attract competitors, eager to tap into the newly crafted category.

Why Might a Startup Pursue Category Creation Through Positioning?

  1. First-mover Positioning Advantage: Being the first in a new category allows startups to claim and retain a unique position in the market.
  2. Premium Pricing: A well-positioned category creator can command higher prices due to limited competition.
  3. Brand Recognition: Startups that craft categories enjoy lasting brand positioning and recognition.

Strategies for Successful Category Positioning

  1. Clear Messaging for Positioning: Ensure a consistent and clear positioning message that resonates with the target audience.
  2. Education & Advocacy: Educate potential customers about the positioning and value proposition of the new category.
  3. Community Building: Engage early adopters, fostering a community that reinforces the brand's positioning.
  4. Continuous Innovation: To maintain category leadership, innovate while ensuring the brand's positioning remains relevant and potent.


Category creation, a manifestation of masterful positioning, demands vision, persistence, and adaptability. For startups, positioning themselves as category creators is risky yet can offer unparalleled rewards. It's not just about capturing market share but sculpting the market's very landscape.

Remember, positioning is more than a marketing tactic—it's a strategic decision that can define a brand's trajectory. When combined with category creation, it becomes a potent tool for startups to redefine industries.

Category creation and positioning are two distinct concepts, but they are closely related and often work in tandem. Let's clarify.

Category Creation

This involves introducing and defining an entirely new market category. The goal is to recognize and fill a unique market need that hasn't been addressed, leading to the development of an entirely new market space or segment.


Positioning pertains to how a product, brand, or company is perceived in the minds of consumers relative to its competitors. It's about defining how you want your target audience to think and feel about your product or brand.

The Intersection

While category creation is about defining a new market space, positioning plays a crucial role in determining how that new category (and the pioneering brand within it) is perceived. When a company creates a new category, it has the initial advantage of positioning itself as the leader or standard-bearer of that category.

For instance, when Tesla popularized the luxury electric vehicle category, it also positioned itself as the premium brand within that category. The category creation was the introduction and popularization of luxury electric vehicles, and the positioning was Tesla's unique placement as the top-tier brand within that category.

In essence, while category creation focuses on market structure, positioning deals with perception within that structure. They are two sides of the same coin when it comes to market strategy, especially for innovative startups looking to disrupt or redefine industries.

Sep 2023
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