Skip to content

195 From Category Contenders to Category Kings with Al Ramadan

Monday 15th July 2024
LOM_Episodes-195 Al Ramadan

On this episode of Lochhead on Marketing, we enjoy the first of many visits from Al Ramadan in 2024, as we talk about moving from being a Category Contender to a Category King.

We’ll dig into what is a category contender in what it takes to win the 18-to-36-month epic category battle that every tech startup faces. So if you’re an entrepreneur or marketing leader who wants to go beyond competing to actually create and dominate your own market, you’re in the right place.

Welcome to Lochhead on Marketing. The number one charting marketing podcast for marketers, category designers, and entrepreneurs with a different mind.

Al Ramadan on Tech Industry Category Development and Dominance

Christopher and Al discuss the concept of being category contenders, reflecting on past research and their book on category kings.

They emphasize the dominance of one company, earning around 76% of the economics in every tech category, despite skepticism. They outline the three phases of category development: define, develop, and dominate, taking approximately 15 years.

They note outliers like open AI and Google’s swift battles, contrasting with Salesforce’s longstanding dominance. They highlight the importance of category design, likening it to a fast-paced battle where one company wins all, stressing its critical role in the tech industry’s landscape.

Market strategy in a competitive industry

Al and Christopher discuss marketing strategies in a competitive industry, emphasizing the importance of a winner’s mindset and setting the agenda.

They share a scenario where a leader in a crowded field differentiates by framing the problem uniquely, focusing on end-user needs rather than feature sets like competitors. Both highlight the futility of incremental strategies and the significance of capturing mindshare by empathizing with customer problems.

They term this the “Battle Royale” for mindshare, where winning means addressing the core problem effectively, rendering feature comparisons irrelevant. Christopher also stresses the pivotal role of understanding customer problems in securing market dominance.

Category design and understanding customer needs

Al and Christopher discuss category design and understanding customer needs. They highlight the importance of framing the problem uniquely to differentiate in a crowded market.

Christopher shares a scenario where a leader in a competitive field focuses on customer needs while competitors emphasize feature sets. They critique the common focus on technology rather than customer-centric solutions, illustrating with examples from Gartner’s history and Google Plus.

They emphasize that categories are about customers’ problems and opportunities, not just technology, stressing the significance of defining the problem scope to win in category battles.

To hear more from this Al Ramadan and Christopher Lochhead dialogue, download and listen to this episode.


Al Ramadan is a co-founding partner of Play Bigger Advisors and coauthor of the book, Play Bigger. He also co-founded Quokka Sports, which revolutionized the way people experience sport online.

Al 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, California.


Connect with Al Ramadan!

Play Bigger | LinkedIn | Category Contenders | The Science Behind Category Design

Don’t forget to grab a copy (or gift!) of one of our best-selling books:

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Lochhead on Marketing™! Christopher loves hearing from his listeners. Feel free to email him, connect on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and subscribe on iTunes!