Play Bigger

How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets

Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney

Book

What do Facebook, Google, Salesforce.com, Uber, VMware, Netflix, IKEA, Birds Eye, 5-hour Energy, and Pixar have in common?

In what way does Apple work like the 165-year-old glass company, Corning?

How do you explain why some start-ups last and build value while others shoot up and then flame out?

Why was Elvis not just the King, but a category king?

The key to each has to do with creating, developing, and dominating new categories of products and services.

Stick around and we’ll tell you how that’s done.

Winning today isn’t about beating the competition at the old game. It’s about inventing a whole new game—defining a new market category, developing it, and dominating it over time. You can’t build a legendary company without building a legendary category. If you think that having the best product is all it takes to win, you’re going to lose.

In this farsighted, pioneering guide, the founders of Silicon Valley advisory firm Play Bigger rely on data analysis and interviews to understand the inner workings of “category kings”—companies such as Amazon, Salesforce, Uber, and IKEA that give us new ways of living, thinking, or doing business, often solving problems we didn’t know we had.

It’s not about disruption anymore—it’s about creation. Category kings are the explosive and enduring companies that create value over time by opening up a category with vast potential and setting themselves up to control the majority of it. Category kings take seventy to eighty percent of the category’s economics. Category kings become famous brands because they become the symbol of the whole category—think Xerox, Google, Uber. A category king is almost impossible to challenge. These are the companies that shape our lives and alter the future. They play bigger than other companies.

In Play Bigger, the authors assemble their findings to introduce the new discipline of category design. By applying category design, companies can create new demand where none existed, conditioning customers’ brains to change expectations and buying habits. While this discipline is crucial in the tech industry, it applies to every kind of industry and even to personal careers.

Authors

Al Ramadan

Al Ramadan is a co-founding partner of Play Bigger Advisors. Al co-founded Quokka Sports, which revolutionized the way people experience sport online. He then joined Macromedia and Adobe, where he spent almost ten years changing the way people think about great digital experiences. At Adobe, Al led teams that created the Rich Internet Applications category and helped develop the discipline of experience design. In the early ‘90s he applied data science to Australia’s Americas Cup -- an innovation in sports performance analytics. His work in sailing led directly to the idea for Quokka. He lives in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Dave Peterson

Dave Peterson is a co-founding partner of Play Bigger Advisors. Dave has been an entrepreneur, chief marketing officer, master of execution, and fixer of crappy marketing. He grew up in Iowa, and later moved to Silicon Valley, landing at CRM software company Vantive. He worked as head of communications at Mercury Interactive, and as CMO at Aggregate Knowledge and Coverity. He co-founded and shut down GiveMeTalk! a podcasting pioneer. Dave (apparently) loves crashing his mountain bike, avoiding trees on his snowboard, traveling to non-predictable places with his friends, and learning new things from his daughter. He lives in San Francisco.

Christopher Lochhead

Christopher Lochhead is a co-founding partner of Play Bigger Advisors. Christopher is a CEO marketing coach and category designer, keynote speaker, mediocre blogger, ski and surf bum. He has been called a "Human Exclamation Point" by Fast Company and "slightly off-putting" by The Economist. Christopher served as CMO of Mercury Interactive, co-founded marketing consulting firm LOCHHEAD, was the founding CMO of Scient, and served as head of marketing at Vantive. He is living happily ever after in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Kevin Maney

Kevin Maney is a best-selling author and award-winning columnist for Newsweek. Kevin co-authored, with TIBCO CEO Vivek Ranadive, The Two-Second Advantage: How We Succeed by Anticipating the Future...Just Enough. It was a 2011 New York Times bestseller. Kevin also wrote the critically-praised biography, The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson Sr. and the Making of IBM. His first book was 1995’s Megamedia Shakeout, one of the earliest books about all media going digital. Kevin has written for USA Today, Conde Nast Portfolio, Fortune, The Atlantic, and Wired, and has often appeared on radio and television. He lives in New York.

Reviews

“a new spin on the ‘something from nothing concept’ … Aimed at entrepreneurs, this book has practical advice for anyone in business.” Booklist

“Business leaders of the future need to create movements with passionate employees and fans that change the world’s point of view, not just companies with employees that sell products. Play Bigger shows how category design is the roadmap for making this happen.” —Mike Maples, Founding Partner, Floodgate

“Category design is a principle that every successful entrepreneur has intuitively embraced. Now it is outlined here in Play Bigger for all business executives to learn and apply. An absolute must read for every person interested in the secret sauce found in Silicon Valley.” —Ann Miura-Ko, Lecturer, Stanford University and Co-founder Floodgate Fund

“Every entrepreneur who wants to take their game to the next level needs to read this book. Category design applies to sports governing bodies, event owners, national teams and even athletes.” —John Bertrand, Americas Cup winner, Olympic medalist

“Every entrepreneur looking to alter the landscape and every CEO looking to reimagine their business can learn from this book. Play Bigger provides inspiration and a framework for building companies that transcend gravity.” —Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce

“Play Bigger shows why it’s so important to build category kings and what it takes to succeed in this new discipline of category design. This is must read book for all brand marketers, VC’s, and board of directors who want to take market creation into their own hands” —R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst & Founder, Constellation Research, Inc. Author Disrupting Digital Business

“This is a very special book, and it will make a huge difference to businesses trying to understand how they can succeed initially and for the long term. Play Bigger ranks up there with Christensen’s “Innovators Dilemma” and Moore’s “Crossing The Chasm” as the three must-have books to succeed.” —Kathleen Goolsby, Managing Editor, SandHill.com

“Play Bigger is the new how-to guide for entrepreneurs and executives who want to build legendary, enduring companies.” —Jim Goetz, Partner, Sequoia Capital

“This important work should be available to everyone thinking of pursuing a business career.” Library Journal