What’s In a Category Name?

O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

– William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

It’s a good thing that Shakespeare’s Juliet was not in Marketing.

One of the most significant decisions in the life of a new category marketer is deciding what to name your category. By landing on a name, you are betting a non-trivial portion of marketing budget that your choice industry is a massive, multi-billion dollar market worthy of investment.

Like most branding decisions, choosing a category name is extremely difficult. In addition to normal creative barriers, there are unique challenges in this particular exercise:

  • Analysts likely won’t believe your category is real. More on that here.
  • Your competition is either calling the category by another name, or beating you to the punch.
  • Tangential categories exist that can justifiably address the pain your product or service addresses.
  • Search volume is EXTREMELY low for most of your ideas.
  • The domains are already taken.
  • And so on, and so forth.

But nothing good ever comes easily. Identifying a category name will do more than just unite your company, but serve as a rallying call for the entire community of prospects and customers within your market. There aren’t any universal rules here, but I came up with a few tips that can help guide your thought process:

Make it about the people, not the product.

In technology, modern applications are delivered online as a subscription, and consequently, the switching costs for consumers from company to company are fairly low. This has led to the advent of the Customer Success movement — where business are required to optimize their efforts around customer outcomes in order to drive their own business outcomes.

Marketing teams are pivoting towards the customer as well (not just a buzz phrase anymore). An effective category name will cater to so much more than your product or service, but to the outcomes your customers hope to achieve through your product.

You’ve heard the classic category names: Enterprise Content Management, Recurring Revenue Management, or Security Information and Event Management. Without casting too much judgment (these happen to be a few of Gartner and Forrester’s favorites), but use case-oriented naming conventions do little to inspire the community of customers they seek to build. Rather, prioritize name ideas that empower the people behind the purchase decisions.

Look for clues in customer job titles.

One way to identify great “anchor” terms for your category name is to think through the job titles of your prospective customers. There ought to exist an intrinsic relationship between the job title of your customers and the career path they choose to develop in your category. I think that’s an important point — for what is the purpose of creating category if not to build industry, create jobs, and launch a marketplace of products and services around a common problem?

In the early days of Customer Success, we saw that the job title of Customer Success Manager and Chief Customer Officer already existed on LinkedIn. Many people (including me) credit Salesforce.com as the originators of the role. What didn’t exist before Gainsight was the industry built around the Customer Success job function.

Had we listened to analysts and other commentators, we would have jumped onto an existing, tangential market — mainly Recurring Revenue Management, or a re-imagination of Customer Service or Customer Relationship Management (CRM). But because of the anchor term in the job title of our target buyers, we thought we had something special in Customer Success.

Use Google Trends to gauge search volume.

Search volume will inherently be low for a new category — if not, I would question how new the proposed category actually is. But by using Google Trends, you’re able to quantify the little traffic that is being driven to your short list of category names. The data gives you a small window into interest and search behavior of the broad market — best served as a way to benchmark your best ideas against your worst. The related searches module is particularly useful as well.


Using data-driven methodologies for landing on a category names has its benefits. Soon enough, you’ll be buying traffic against search terms, fighting the content marketing battle on SEO, and activating a passionate group of prospects, customers, advocates and partners who embrace the new industry by name.

So, what’s in category name? A whole lot of market share and revenue up-side if you’ve chosen, and can defend, the right one.

Anthony Kennada

Anthony Kennada is Chief Marketing Officer at Gainsight, building and leading the Customer Success Management industry. He is passionate about creating new market categories, scaling thought leadership programs, and (obviously) customer-centric marketing. Prior companies include Box, LiveOffice and Symantec.

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