Mastering Category Design with Mike Damphousse

In the latest episode of the Business Leadership Podcast, hosted by Edwin Fundos, special guest Mike Damphousse delves into the intricate world of category design and market strategy. Mike Damphousse, an experienced CEO, CMO, and startup advisor, shares his journey from a hardcore programmer to a leading expert in category design. This post will encapsulate the wealth of knowledge Mike shared, highlighting the crucial aspects of category design, the importance of internal and external alignment, and the concept of vision entropy.

Introduction to Category Design

Mike begins by explaining that category design is as much about the process as it is about the outcome. It involves more than just marketing and positioning; it’s about having a mission within a company to purposefully design and build the category you believe you own. He emphasizes that category design starts from the CEO level and trickles down through the entire organization, ensuring alignment across all core team members.

The Importance of Internal Alignment

One of the key themes Mike discusses is the necessity of buy-in from all key stakeholders, particularly from the top executives. He mentions that during their projects, they make sure the CEO and the executive leadership team are on board before proceeding. Mike stresses that marketing alone cannot drive category design; it must be owned by the entire leadership team to ensure successful implementation.

The Role of Workshops in Category Design

Mike details the process of running workshops to align teams and help them understand their category strategy deeply. He discusses how these workshops, which sometimes feel like group therapy sessions, help teams articulate and agree on the category they are pursuing. By bringing everyone in a room to discuss and debate, they peel back layers of misunderstanding and misalignment, which fosters a unified vision.

Vision Entropy: A Common Pitfall

A particularly insightful part of the conversation centers around the concept of vision entropy. Mike explains that vision entropy occurs when various obstacles prevent a company from realizing its vision. These could include technological barriers, internal focus issues, or market context shifts. Identifying and resolving vision entropy is essential to maintaining a clear and actionable path toward category success.

Mobilizing the Category Strategy

Mike highlights the steps of mobilizing the category strategy, which involves internal and then external mobilization. Internal mobilization helps build belief and consistency within the team before taking the category message to the public. Using examples from companies like LinkedIn, he explains how initial internal launches can vary, from sales kickoffs to company-wide meetings, before executing public launches to create a larger impact.

Creating Movements: From Internal Buy-In to Community Building

Community plays a significant role in solidifying a category. Mike points out that categories are ultimately built by the customers and early adopters who believe in and evangelize the category. He talks about the importance of super consumers — those who are highly passionate and engaged with the product or service. These super consumers can drive momentum and build a community around the category, which is essential for its growth and sustainability.

Addressing Common Challenges in Category Design

Mike outlines common challenges business leaders might face while implementing category design, such as internal clutter, financial constraints, and lack of alignment. He shares creative solutions for overcoming these challenges, like organizing impactful yet cost-effective events to communicate the category strategy compellingly.

Practical Advice for Business Leaders

Edwin prompts Mike to share advice for business leaders considering category design but feeling overwhelmed. Mike suggests reading “Play Bigger” to understand the fundamentals of category design and emphasizes focusing on the problem the company aims to solve. He also recommends dedicating time to align and agree on the category within the team and taking progressive steps to unfold the category design process.


This episode of the Business Leadership Podcast is a treasure trove of insights for anyone interested in category design. From understanding the critical role of internal alignment to tackling vision entropy and leveraging community support, Mike Damphousse provides a comprehensive guide on how to approach and master category design. For anyone considering embarking on this journey, his advice and strategies offer a solid foundation to build upon.

For more details, you can listen to the full podcast episode and explore the show notes for additional resources. If you found this episode valuable, consider sharing it with someone who would benefit from these insights.

Note: For deeper engagement, consider joining the Category Thinkers community, a Slack group that discusses category design ideas and strategies, mentioned by Mike during the podcast. It’s an excellent platform for connecting with like-minded professionals and gaining more actionable insights.

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