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Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets
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Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,284 ratings  ·  124 reviews
In today's world, it's no longer enough to create great new products; rather companies now must create whole new categories that destroy old ones. Uber created a new personal transportation category and destroyed taxis and limos. created a new category of cloud-base sales automation, dethroning the old CRM industry. Airbnb, Workday, Tesla and Netflix are all ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 2016 by Piatkus
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  1,284 ratings  ·  124 reviews

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Start your review of Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets
Christopher Lawson

Yes, that’s right—begin reading PLAY BIGGER at Chapter Ten, “How You Can Play Bigger.”

What?? It’s not because the first nine chapters are bad—not at all. There are a ton of ideas in this book--written by a TEAM of authors. I struggled to clearly see the main points. But--If you first go through Chapter Ten (then start the book at the beginning) you will have a “roadmap” of the main themes of the book. You will be miles ahead.

PLAY BIGGER is an interesting perspective on how to
Oct 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: innovation
If you don't usually read Marketing Strategy books - maybe is useful.
Anything that makes you think about how to differentiate and how to position in the market is useful.

but I've seen all of this before...
in 1997 on the 2nd law of All Ries and Jack Trout - the Law of the category.
then in all marketing books talking about competition is for losers, and you should create a new market/category/...
Then it came Blue Ocean Strategy in 2004/2005 - all over again - find/create your Blue Ocean (aka cat
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The caveat with many business books is that they are written to teach you a concept, but rarely do they tell you how to apply that concept. I am pleased to say that Play Bigger is not one of those books.

The authors of Play Bigger set out to take the idea of “Category Design” to the mainstream - the fact that “Category Design”, at its core, is not actually a new concept makes Play Bigger a fantastic example of the idea itself. The importance of a business differentiating themselves within a crow
Philip Joubert
3.5 stars.

This book is what you get when you combine Innovator's Dilemma, Crossing the Chasm, and 22 Laws of Marketing, add a dash of Purple Cow and apply it specifically to tech startups. That's not to say it isn't useful to combine ideas from all those books but it certainly isn't original.

The essential ideas in the book seem to stem from category theories popularized by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Their core ideas are:
- People often think product when they should be thinking catergory
- If you're
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't like it when books writes lesson learnt for business as lessons for humans. Definitely there are different dynamics, as identified by the authors. But the difference, I felt, were not satisfactorily addressed. Other than that, I felt that it oversimplified success and underplayed risks of lightning strikes. There were no plans for recovery, only that you should invest all your resources on it. I do like the different perspective on designing the product market fit. Just felt it was an over ...more
Katie  Markov
Focuses on the importance to define a new category and dominate that category companies. Simply competing in an existing category isn't good enough. The authors look to category kings, and how in recent cases (and even some old instances like frozen vegetables), founders set out to create entirely new categories, and how this separates itself in the consumers mind. But key to this is effective communication on why the consumer needs this new category. Thought it was a good read and had strong po ...more
Michael Payne
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind: How to Be Seen and Heard in the Overcrowded Marketplace, by Al Ries and Jack Trout, was the marketing mental mind map of their time.

Now is the time to Play Bigger. The thoughts herein consume the mind of the Pirate, Dreamer and Innovators. This is the treasure map to meaning and mattering.

Give up on marketing, let go of positioning: Play Bigger.

Don't market.

Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty bold thesis; to forego playing at the same level as your rivals, and instead forge your *own* category and become the category king. This is unlike any business development book I've come across to heard about. ...more
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great at explaining category design and laying out steps to try to do this.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main premise of this book is this idea of "category kings" who are companies who come in and create a category where none existed before. The book leans heavily on big corporations like Apple and Salesforce to drive this point home. An example on how they created the category would be Salesforce taking CRM online. Previously companies had to invest millions in installing expensive CRM software on every computer they operated. Salesforce created a new category by putting a CRM online and havi ...more
Sven Kirsimäe
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: at-audible
Prologue: "Better leads to a faster horse; different leads to a Model T."

Sometimes slightly messy, repetitive. For some, might feel like overselling and shallow.

For me, the book had very insightful reflections on how to look at the things happening and especially at the new beginnings.

Do not read this book if:
1. You think the company with the best product wins.
2. You believe there is room for a lot of winners in a market, that a rising tide lifts all boats and other feel-good hippy garbage.
3. Yo
Alison Jones
There’s SO much to love about this book. It’s well written, makes some brilliant points, and in the idea of the ‘category’ brings together some of the best innovation and marketing thinking of recent years.


It may be written by a team, but culturally this book is monolithic. Every word of every page reeks of macho Silicon valley surfer-dude. Their language is casually sexist – category king, strike master controller – and their metaphors straight from the pages of Boys’ Own: lightning strik
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book’s core insight is good, and its examples are helpful. That means a lot coming from me, as this genre is the saddest bunch of middlebrow palaver on Earth. For every very good book (I can think of like three of four standouts), there’s a hundred pretenders. Maybe that’s true of all genres, but there’s something about the pretension of business and leadership gurus of the preening multihyphenated LinkedIn influencer realm that is truly desperate and loathsome.
Aaron Scruggs
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am currently doing market research and think I have discovered a problem that needs solving. This book along with "Building a StoryBrand" have helped clarify how to educate the market on the problem they have. ...more
Umang Rohani
Feb 16, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
so empty
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't sure what I was in for but I do know my brain hurts from all the thinking and notes taken for solid new ideas.

Read at your own risk!
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Define the category, not the product.

Companies that were not the first in their space, but the first in their category:
Google (Google: “Provides access to the worlds information in one click.”; spot on results- far better than anything else; gathered data; redefined search - maps, etc; changed ads - auction style), FB, Apple (many new categories), Tesla, 5 Hour Energy (defines energy drink - quick shot and wake up), Salesforce (1% equity to charity, practice corporate responsibility, emotional c
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Introduction to the concepts of category kings and category design. Not entirely “new” ideas per se (the term ‘category killer’ has been in R&D circles forever) however ‘king’ is a much more fitting label — as is ‘owning’ rather than ‘killing’ a category. Also, differentiation is great, but what the book fails to mention is that being different AND better is what’s key to success (otherwise you’ll end up with the Takeshi 69’s of the world).

Minor faults aside, what this book does do is to explai
Sten Tamkivi
This book will be among my top recommendations to any startup founder.

The author's framework for creating categories (not just products) is super solid: from simple questions (aim to be different, not better) to big picture (aligning category, org, etc design efforts) to very tactical advice ("lightning strikes" as a launch tool).

The real life stories were well researched, and non-obvious (like the backstory of energy shot products in US store check-outs; the rise and fall of Flash products for
Mo Arshath
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book explains how important is for a company to focus on Category design, POV and other actions following it to place the company as a category king. Authors took examples from successful tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Salesforce and UBER picked their category and stayed on top of it.

Books like Innovators and 'Seeing what next' explains how important is to innovate and continuous integration is important for an organization. In this book they have framed terminology like Ca
Ben Taylor
Every couple years, I pick up a business book like this one. I’m always hoping to be pleasantly surprised...I find most business and self help books to *feel* amazing in the moment, but to be pretty forgettable mere days later.

To its credit, Play Bigger does two things better than most business books. First, the core insight is pretty good (more on this in a moment). Second, the book offers concrete, clear steps that companies can follow (ex: write this blueprint, this point of view document, di
Nick Blackbourn
There are some great ideas in Play Bigger. I appreciated reading the book and the way the authors articulated positioning combined with a surgical marketing strategy was interesting and at times insightful.

Solving problems for customers is key. At the heart of category design seems to be the idea that you sometimes need to market the problem as much as the solution. That way, you develop a new ‘category’ (market). When you do this, your company is seen as the brand that best understands the prob
Rishabh Srivastava
An overview of marketing positioning for new companies. Not a bad book – but the authors do oversell their insights.

My main takeaways were:
1. Positioning and branding matter. "We’re a marketing signals company is a much better way of saying that were are a channel analytics company". The former allows you to be the king of a category that you have narrowly defined yourself. The latter means you’re just one in a pack
2. Category creation and positioning applies to individuals too, not just compani
Lindsay Hickman
This book was a little all over the place because of the simple fact it was written by multiple people. You can definitely get a feel for when a different author begins either within the same chapter, or in another chapter. It just is a bit more difficult to read.
But this book is has a great message for everyone, not just marketers, media professionals or advertisers, but literally anybody: be different.
This book has the best advice: when creating a product, a trend, or just trying to improve
Apr 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super well written, and very insightful. Does a convincing job of evangelising their different rather than better approach as a guiding principle, with fantastic examples proving their point that building categories is the key to succeeding. They evangelise so hard, that at points it's boarding on a cultish adherence to this idea, which somewhat puts me off. You can feel that they're unwilling to pick or expect any holes in their approach and so it becomes a bit of a Theory of Everything that fa ...more
Brian Sachetta
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I come from the startup world so I love books that talk about starting and building companies. This one is all about a new concept in that process — category design.

In short, category design is all about deciding, ahead of time, what category your company is going to dominate, then building your org in a way that allows you to do just that. Of course, that’s much easier said than done, but the authors lay out the process in an easily digestible fashion.

Though I probably won’t be leveraging their
Shannah Tan
I feel like this book helped me better understand how Qualtrics runs and the priorities of executives. A particularly compelling argument for why you shouldn’t chase feature requests. The best example is from Henry Ford who said if I asked what they wanted, they would have said faster horses because they wouldn’t assume a Model T was possible.

That being said, it was much longer than it needed to be and super repetitive. It tried to be funny and snarky at the expense of efficiency. Like so many
Akarapon Srivorakul
This is quite an eye-opening business book for me (in case a new chick in the business world). The authors explain the theory behind the success case of well-known technology corps, naming that theory they explored 'CATEGORY DESIGN'. The brief concept of it is that when you try to be 'BETTER', you're going to climb someone ladder, not guaranteeing that you will become the highest on that ladder among the others. But, if you entirely wash your mind and think about creating your own new category, ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read a lot of strategy books that say the same things, and this one stands out as a good one with a unique thesis and supporting insights. There are flaws in how they selected case studies...definite selection bias towards picking market leading companies and reverse engineering how those companies employed the authors’ Category Design approach. But they did a poor or non-existent job of explaining why the many market leading companies that don’t fit this framework are also successful, plus ...more
Christophe Jospe
This book was excellent and also highly relevant to what I am thinking about right now as I scale Nori. It helps focus on some of the things that we are already doing to create a category and think through textbook plays to build and establish a successful business. This book covers important concepts that get to the core of the discipline of what other entrepreneurs did to establish their companies as lasting category kings. One of the big takeaways is that people can build successful businesse ...more
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