How and Why Category Strategies Create Category Kings and Queens Who Dominate the Categories they Create with the Legendary Christopher Lochhead

Category Design Thinking with Christopher Lochhead

Episode Summary

In today’s episode, we have a very special guest who needs no introduction but here goes, he’s the God-father of Category Design strategy, Christopher Lochhead, and legendary category designer and marketing executive!

Christopher is a #1 Apple Business Podcaster, #1 Amazon Marketing author, and a “Godfather of Category Design”.

We discuss his origin story from dropping out of high school in Canada and creating his own path to a successful solopreneur, as well as a 3x CMO in Silicon Valley, taking companies to IPO and becoming a 2X NY Times bestselling co-author of both Play Bigger and Niche Down.

We delve into his point of view around Category Design, why it’s the only true path to differentiate and win big in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

He also shares the top decision-makers who have to embrace Category Design as a business and go-to-market strategy, and yes it’s a C-level, but you’ll be surprised by his answer. He delves into what Category Design is not, so executives and stakeholders don’t fall into pitfalls of category design confusion.

He also describes how Category Design can shape culture, describing Eddie Yoon’s missionary versus mercenary mentality around work culture. We also have a very special cameo by a furry feline, which shows Christopher Lochhead’s incredible awareness of detail as he saves one of the nine lives of Bean, his 5-month old tabby rescued kitten.

We have an interesting conversation around legendary category designers such as Spanx, CEO and Founder Sarah Blakely, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and Hint’s Founder, Kara Goldin.

He also gives us some of his book recommendations to get exponentially better and he shares the advice or reflection points he would have for a younger Christopher if he could go back to the future, there’s throwing down the rope and Counting Crows reference to his answer.

Show Notes & Bio

Creating a category is the only clear path to winning big in today’s noisy and commoditized markets, Christopher Lochhead has spent the better half of 30 years creating, evangelizing, and educating companies around category design strategies. We discuss what good category design thinking looks like, think Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx and Tesla’s Elon Musk and Netflix as notable examples.

We discuss the uber importance of getting 1000% buy-in and stakeholdership from the one C-level who should be championing the creation of a category, the founder/CEO, and the pitfalls and challenges that founders and entrepreneurs may find when rolling out the category design as a GTM strategy.

Christopher cleverly paints us the picture of why we have been conditioned to pay $400 dollars for a pair of Persol designer sunglasses, but only $150 dollars for a high-tech SmartTV, the answer lies in category design thinking and shaping clients and consumers’ point of views around a category.

Even aliens visiting, would pause and ponder how a plastic piece of decoration on our face, is more valuable than a satellite-connected, thousands of channels and billions of information bytes SmartTV on its face value.

He describes the problem with most C-levels around marketing, and the whole premise of marketing being misunderstood and implied that its actually bullshit to practice marketing to compete for existing demand vs category design thinking where legendary companies create the niche, the demand and reap the category kings or queens market dominance reward.

His book PlayBigger published the valuation and market share results of compiled IPOs from 2016 and it was published in the Harvard Business Review to demonstrate how category kings and queens win big on both market caps and sweet spot IPOs with their category design GTMs.

We discuss how adjacency sieges and micro-pivots or redirecting demand strategy during the category design lifecycle can be a homerun or epic failure for companies executing category design.

I potentially see Drift having done this same strategy during this year from conversational marketing to revenue acceleration platform, and we chat about them a bit during this segment of the episode.

Christopher also shares a very important reflection point, as we have all experienced the perfect clusterfuck storm of health, economic recession, and racial inequalities, that have been evident during 2020.

However, he sees some positive outcomes and opportunities on the horizon for those who want to take the jump ball thrown in the air and shape the future now.

For example, he’s proud of what Silicon Valley and tech have done during this challenging year, an industry that has always spurred innovation, scalability, and growth, giving us as examples Zoom, Amazon, and others who have played pivotal roles during this 100-year in the making global pandemic.

There were so many golden nuggets of wisdom, practical takeaways from a true practitioner of category design, that these show notes don’t do it justice, watch and listen to the full episode to appreciate the full depth of our conversation.

Category Design Thinking with Christopher Lochhead

The top key Category Design Strategy take-aways he covers in more detail during the full podcast:

  1. Category Design is a GTM Strategy, not a marketing strategy
  2. Product-Market Fit is Not a Winning Strategy
  3. Category king and queens like (Netflix, Telsa, Apple) all reap the market cap rewards
  4. Follow your different (in business and life) create your own paths
  5. Send down the rope (help others, mentor and bring people up)

Bio and Contact information: Christopher Lochhead

Lochhead has been an advisor to over 50 venture-backed startups, is a venture capital limited partner, and a former three-time Silicon Valley public company CMO (Vantive, Scient, Mercury Interactive), and entrepreneur.

Lochhead hosts the award-winning dialogue podcast “Follow Your Different” and award-winning “Lochhead on Marketing” podcast and is co-author of two international bestsellers: Niche Down and Play Bigger.

He has been called “one of the best minds in marketing” by The Marketing Journal, a “Human Exclamation Point” by Fast Company, a “quasar” by NBA legend Bill Walton and “Off-putting to some” by The Economist.

To learn more about his bio and legendary podcast, he can be reached to connect on LinkedIn


#1 Amazon Best Sellers Published Books: Play Bigger and Niche Down

Christopher’s Book Recommendation:

Peter Drucker: The Effective Executive

Mark H. McCormack: What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School

Al Reis & Jack Trout: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing 

Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning 

Bill Walton: Back from the Dead

Bruce Feiler: Life Is in the Transitions

Ryan Holiday: Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius

Robert Rosenberg: From Around the Corner to Around the World 

Kara Goldin: Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters 

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Smart Chickens is intentionally a quirky, yet intelligently poised dialogue B2B SaaS and Demand Gen podcast. In this podcast, you will hear from professionals in SaaS and B2B share best practices they deploy at their organizations as well as a bit about their career journey stories. They also will share their point of view around creativity, innovation, and strategies they’ve used to become better at marketing, sales, and leadership roles to help drive revenue and market share.

We highlight both the wins and losses, what strategies worked, and how their “different way of thinking” made them, their teams, and overall their companies better.

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