Talking Shop with Paul McDonnell | Insight Partners — Gold Front

Talking Shop with Paul McDonnell | Insight Partners

What makes a successful category creator?

Josh Lowman
Paul mcdonell

Recently, I spoke with Paul McDonnell, VP at Insight Partners. Paul is a certified badass of marketing and has worked closely with dozens of marketing teams in his role at Insight's Marketing Center of Excellence. We discuss:

🎯 What it means to have the right culture for category creation.
🎯 Getting the right people in the room before you start.
🎯 Why humility is essential to crafting good strategy.
🎯 How marketing teams can take advantage of AI tools today.

And more.

It’s full of essential tips for CMOs, CEOs, founders, and anyone who might be thinking about category creation.

Paul, How's it going?

Hey Josh. It's going great. Thanks for having me.

I just wanted to say that I haven't really told you this before, but I think you're really good at what you do.

Thank you. Yeah, we worked together for the first time a couple of quarters ago, and in the preceding year or so, I just kept hearing of the mythical Gold Front. So it was great to get our heads together in the room and work on a really exciting project. And I'm sure we'll do that a lot in the next coming years.

Yeah. Good. My first question for you is, you said that you work in the Marketing Center of Excellence, What is that?

Insight is pretty unique in the venture landscape. The company's been around 25 plus years. So it's one of the most recognizable names in both venture and private equity. But just over a decade ago we started Onsite, which kind of serves as our secret weapon. It's a lot of the reason why a lot of companies choose to work with Insight.

So in a nutshell, Onsite is a team of operators. We exist across six centers of excellence, so I'm on the Marketing Center of Excellence, and our goal in essence is to scale companies as fast as possible. So we are there as an advisor, we give companies a lot of data on what great looks like, and we also introduce portfolio companies to each other.

So in essence, we give them the kind of superpowers to reach fast growth, as sustainably as possible. And we are an extension of their team. So their success is our success. We are fully committed to their growth.

That's cool. So you're seeing sort of inside the leadership team to a whole lot of startups and tech companies?

Yeah, for sure. From my perspective, I never thought I'd work in venture capital, but I joined the team about two years ago, and it's really proved to be the dream job because not only do we get exposure to all types of companies, different stages of maturity, different industries, different team dynamics, but we also get to span the full scope of marketing.

So on any one day, I do demand gen, account based—I'm a product marketer by trade, so go quite deep in bridging the divide between product and marketing teams. And then we do a lot of work on brand and category and messaging positioning, which I'm sure we'll dive into today.

But yeah, obviously we have a portfolio of 500-plus companies, some of the most iconic names in tech. And it gives us an opportunity to, as they say, collect a lot of data points of what really fast growth looks like, and share that with the rest of the portfolio.

Yeah, that's cool. One thing I notice with our clients is that, if I'm advising a CMO or somebody else that, while I respect their experience and I learn a lot from them, they're also getting to draft off of our experience—having seen the situation that they are looking at many more times than they have because we're working with a lot of different companies.

And I think it's really fun to be in that position of being able to see patterns and help portfolio companies or our clients with that kind of experience of being able to see how this lays up many times over.

Yeah, I think that signal recognition is pretty crucial to the value that we add. There are people on our team—the team is led by Gary Survis, and we also have people like Meg Fitzgerald, Barrie Markowitz, and Charlene Chen—who have literally worked with hundreds of companies in the last couple of years.

So the ability to rapidly assess the strengths and weaknesses of companies, and then implement great opportunities for them is super effective. And obviously, we're there in good times and bad. When I joined, the market was as hot as it's probably ever been in my lifetime. And then in the last couple of months that's where you really see the value of somebody like Insight.

If a bank collapses overnight, if you're forced to do a RIF, that's where Insight can really show its value and make sure that we're a good thought partner and that we're working through the tough times as well as the good.

This is a podcast about category creation. So I want to ask you about your experience doing that. And the area that I want to talk about is, what qualities differentiate successful category-creating marketing teams from the ones that are less successful?

There are several that come to mind when we see a company really succeed in category. There are several cultural elements, strategic elements, and things like that.

But for companies that are earlier stage, or who may not be in such a compelling industry, then category is not the be-all and end-all. So part of our goal is to assess, What is the immediate need for category? And once we have that, there's an opportunity to make the ethereal stick, once there's an opportunity to get great thought leadership, and most importantly for us, category offers this mechanism towards strategic alignment.

A lot of our companies are growing incredibly fast, and this category workshop that we do gives them an opportunity to take a step back, take a breather, review the success that they've had, and then figure out, What we stand for in the next five years? For us, that's really the crux of the question. What are we all going to get excited about coming to work for the next three to five years?

Once we have that all in place, and once we're kind of aligned at doing category and having a really intentional approach to category strategy is important, then I think there's like multiple indicators of success. And I think the first one, that we've talked a lot about previously, is just the right culture. So having a team-wide level of humility, that we are able to objectively look at ourselves from the view of an analyst, or as a user, or as a customer—that we can objectively assess what we stand for is important.

Similarly, having equal stakeholders in the room. You know, we regularly say that category is not a marketing activity. It affects sales as much as it impacts product, and it just so happens that the CMO is often the change catalyst. They will be the one who drives through a lightning strike or an in-market manifestation of our category strategy.

But we really need the CEO in the room. They need to be the driver, they need to be getting everybody excited about this. They can't be a passenger. Similarly, I want to hear from the CPO and the CTO about the product roadmap and the technical vision. I also want to hear from the COO about what they're hearing in-market.

So I think my first kind of indicator of success would be, Do we have the right culture? Do we have the right people in the room? And are they all adequately bought into our process?

I think the most important thing is, do we have the right people in the room? So let's talk about that. Have you gone through this process of trying to define a category with the wrong people in the room and had it not turned out right? Or is it so important to you all that you just won't move forward unless you have the whole leadership team?

At this point, we are at a point where we have to have everybody in the room and they have to be adequately briefed. And so, we have come to that point as a net result of some stumbling blocks along the way, essentially.

So I did one of these workshops almost two years ago now. The CEO came in on the first day and asked, What are we doing in this day-and-a-half-long workshop? And that was a clear indication that I had not done my job adequately of briefing everybody who was a core decision-maker in the company on why category matters. Why we would allocate a day-and-a-half of everybody's time to this?

And also—category for us—that day-and-a-half workshop that we generally kick these sessions off, is the tip of the iceberg. This is something that will take at least a year to effectively bring to market. And it's also a lot of financial resources. This is not a cheap process.

You can't cut corners. And if you're working with some of the best in the game of taking these things to market, you need to be conscious that this is a major investment in both time and money.

And so yeah, definitely having people warm in the room. Like we do this process of internal stakeholder interviews now. That we try and get as smart as possible about the industry that we're dealing with before we enter the room. Now, obviously, that gets us a great deal of credibility. But making sure that the product team is excited about this and doesn't feel as a necessary evil, that the sales team sees this impacting their prospects and markets, and that they see the transformative potential of category is super important. Otherwise, we wouldn't invest our time and we wouldn't waste the company's time.

Yes. It's kinda interesting when we meet with prospects during the sales process. There's often a CMO who's very interested in talking to us but may see us more as if we're people trying to sell them something at the end of the day. And sometimes when we meet with the CEO and we share with them what we're doing around category, that's the moment that it really clicks, because I think the CEO's thinking more about valuation and, “How do I get to the highest valuation possible?” And seeing what we were able to help Qualtrics with and some of the other companies.

So I'm curious, How do you all make the decision to start the category strategy process with your portfolio companies? Because for us, they're thinking in those terms anyway, but I know that if I meet with the CEO, that's going to be a way better way to start working with the company than not doing that.

So the North Star of a lot of our workshops is a document called a Point of View, and I know you have a similar document. And the Point of View articulates the problem that we're trying to solve, the ramifications of that problem, our vision of the future, and then the outcomes. And so we use that Point of View as an internal manifesto.

It's not a marketing document. It serves as a product roadmap launchpad. It serves as a messaging matrix catalyst. It influences everything that we stand for in-market and internally. And so that Point of View solves a lot of the problems that we hear when companies start these conversations around category.

And a lot of the time it's: we're not telling a compelling message in-market, we're losing against our nearest competitor, we lost out on a Gartner inquiry. And so, I think there are a lot of opportunities for A POV to solve three areas of messaging: that being compelling, differentiated, and future-proof. And so if we, for example, see that messaging has pivoted twice in the last year, it's probably a sign that a Point of View would be very beneficial for you to align the organization around a central concept that we want to stand for in the next few years.

And so the goal of all of this is to say something that really stands for something in-market in the minds of customers, and make sure that it's, as I heard somebody call recently, “exponentially differentiated rather than incrementally better.” So standing for something different rather than better in the minds of customers is our overall goal in this.

And, to your question, we get there through a lot of ways. It could be sales are not effective. It could be product making incremental gains rather than major strides in innovation. But it all kind of bubbles back to the POV.

That makes sense, but is it more the portfolio company coming to you and saying, “Hey, we have this problem,” and you're like, “You should consider solving this problem through category strategy.” Or is it more you coming to them going, “Hey, we've noticed this problem and we want to talk to you about putting together a better POV.”

Yeah, we have such a vast portfolio that we see both sides of the coin there. So we have a lot of companies that we meet with on a weekly basis and talk about strategic priorities as an organization. We have some CMOs that come to us when they want to do a project, like ABX, or they want to implement PLG, or they want to build a community. Things like that.

And generally, we have our finger on the pulse of the marketing health of the organization, and overall, the revenue health of the organization. And so if we see a major opportunity for category leadership to be established, we will suggest that to them. We are very much at the will of our portfolio companies if they don't want to do something.

That's totally their initiative. And so we offer them, essentially, as an extension of their team, trying to be their secret weapon. That if they want to bring us in-house and, to do an initiative like brand transformation or category creation, we are there as an extra resource. There are some times they proactively come to us and say, “We were left off a magic quadrant or out of a wave. How do we fix that?” And we have in-house expertise, who often guides them through that process. But category may be the final version of that question, “How do we address what analysts are perceiving our position as market?”

Okay. Yeah. But there's got to be an interesting dynamic there because you own part of these companies. Insight owns part of the company. So when you go to them and say, “Hey, we think this might be a good idea.” It's gotta land differently.

It's different across a portfolio. I think from our perspective, we are there, Onsite, we are there, again, to share success. So we're not trying to sell anything. It's not in our interest. Ideally, we have the best people in-house, in our portfolio companies.

And across the portfolio, there are a lot of visionary marketers who are at the cutting edge of what category stands for, how to build a strong brand, all of these areas across the marketing mix that we're learning from on a day-to-day basis. So it's not in our interest to force our will on any company whatsoever. It's more we are there as an extra resource.

That sounds right. But you could imagine that in their minds, they might perceive that idea coming from somebody that has part ownership in their company, as a different kind of request than just, “Hey, we have this idea.”

So I think the credibility of our initial engagement, like we don't invest in a company and immediately suggest a process like category creation, which is very deep. We are generally embedded in their teams on a day-to-day basis in advance of that, and we're doing smaller projects, so they can kind of see that our only interest is increasing their potential. And so for a process like category creation, it's not in our interest whatsoever to go in and force something on any company, because ultimately, category is a major lift.

We have a process around brand transformation that is not to be taken lightly. And the biggest failure we see there is that we build everything up to this workshop. It takes hundreds of hours on both sides and then ultimately, Do we have the resource to take it to market? And then we see the appetite from the portfolio company of establishing that category leadership. So if we're doing all of that work and it's coming to naught at the end, it's not in our interest.

So we want to make sure that the company is well primed to do this and that we are seen as essentially putting their efforts into hyper-growth.

Makes sense. So you spend so much time with them so that it's like you guys are all a team kind of collaborating, and so there's a lot of trust built up during that part of the process?

Exactly. Yeah.

So, you were talking about culture and humility—man, I couldn't agree more. Could you expand on that idea of having the right culture?

Yeah, I think part of this is being able to see your industry agnostic of your own company. So when we think of successful categories, I heard this concept, I think it was Christopher Lockhead mentioned about forecasting versus backcasting, and you want to, within category, start with the way the world should be, rather than the way it is today.

So when we do these workshops, everybody comes to the table with internal biases. We are in, actually, the nice position of being the dumbest people in the room about the industry, because we have very little knowledge compared to a lot of the industry experts that are part of the portfolio company.

And so we can challenge a lot of their biases and ask the dumb questions because a lot of the time the dumb questions allow us to get to different answers, especially when we're trying to strive for different versus better. We want to challenge first principles, and so that challenging allows us to see if a company is truly humble and they are not so entrenched in their biases, that they are able to say, “Actually, yeah, maybe we should have rethought that.” Or maybe our expectations of our competitors are challenged, and maybe we have certain degrees of internal biases about a certain competitor.

So I think it's beneficial having really open minds going into this process. We start off our workshop by saying, “We are not here to challenge things that you are more intelligent about us. And we're not here to question your product roadmap,” for example. “We are here simply to get a level playing ground and make sure that we're asking the right questions.” So yeah, I think having that right culture of people being able to have clear open minds and challenge all of their internal beliefs is very useful.

Yeah. I often think that strategy should just be about having better conversations. And I get the sense that our clients sometimes are having a hard time having a new conversation that creates new ideas around what their strategy should be. And that when you bring in a third party like you guys, or like us, that it allows them to sort of think about it and talk about it in a new way. And that can be very generative.

For sure. A lot of the industries that we are heavily focused on, things like cyber security. The very first question is, Is there anything new to be said about cyber security? How deep in vulnerability management can we go without bearing back to the forefathers of cybersecurity messaging?

So it behooves us to have people in the room who are not industry experts to ask these questions, challenge assumptions, and hopefully get to new answers. And, you know, like ultimately I think when we think of the North Star for category creation. It's that Seth Godin quote, “People don't believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. But they always believe what they tell themselves.”

And trying to get them to figure out a compelling narrative for users and buyers to tell themselves, in order to get to that activating benefit that drives a purchase over the line. That's where we can come in and hopefully provide a nice mirror to the company and say, “We're just gonna ask questions. You tell us the answers.”

Going back to the question of humility, here’s how I think of this: we're all a little bit narcissistic. We're all a little bit ego-oriented. And we all have different levels of that. And then I think when you work in a company, there's a certain amount of fear or a healthy respect for authority because they could fire you at any time, or give you a raise, or whatever.

And what I see is when a culture is particularly ego-based, and there's a certain amount of fear as well, it can be very hard to embark upon category creation. It just requires a lot of new thinking and new ideas. And it can't be so much about like, whose idea it was, or who's good, or who's bad.

What's your take on this? Do you think that's a good assessment? This question of, Why humility is such a valuable thing in teams like that.

Yeah, I think from the senior leadership side of things, we've tested—and I think we actually did one with you, Josh—having the founders out of the room. So that we could make sure that we had everybody's voice heard, and make sure that there were no limits or barriers to communication in the room.

And I think it's an interesting opportunity to have quieter voices heard and make sure that everybody feels invested in the mission that we're going on and things like that.

Ultimately, I think working really closely with the founding team so that they understand what the efforts we're trying to drive to are, making sure that they know that, “You've hired ideally the smartest people in the room—you should make sure that their voices are heard,” is crucial.

But also understand that the founders are probably going to be the most passionate people in the room, and we need to hear from them on the broader vision. When we look at the vision of the future for a lot of our companies, it starts off incredibly expansive because we invest in companies that are trying to solve big problems, and then we have to narrow it down to much more tactical messaging versus that visionary messaging.

So the founding team is usually exceptional at creating that visionary messaging, and everybody else in the room, to do their day-to-day jobs, are great at bringing that to the tactical level. So finding that nice marriage is pretty crucial to our process.

That makes sense. But I want to talk about humility. You said this was a really valuable thing. Can you just talk about that a little bit more? What is it that makes that so valuable? And can you talk a little bit about the teams that you've seen that don't have that?

Yeah. When you think of a lot of the iconic category creators, companies like Qualtrics, 6sense, and SalesLoft, a lot of these companies were in saturated markets where they had built up successful companies that were thriving at the time.

And then they had the humility to challenge all of their first principle beliefs and bring something new to market. And so the ability to pivot is a clear indication of humility that says, “Yeah, we've done things good, but we could be so much better.” And for them to bring in external stakeholders and trust those external stakeholders is another clear indicator of humility.

In terms of companies who haven't done it well, I think there are multiple examples in-market of companies that have been outpaced by their competitors—who have been incredibly bold, who have gone in new directions, who have taken risks, and most importantly done the work.

When we engage in companies on category, we're just an accelerator, we don't do the work for them. We provide some kind of impetus for conversations and facilitation, but it's ultimately up to the company to take that to fruition. And so companies who are humble enough to say, “This is the work we need to do.” And outpace their competitors in terms of resources invested, are the ones who we see being most successful.

Right. At the end of the day, it's the work and the quality of the ideas that matter. And I think I see that over and over again, that the best teams are just really focused on great work and they don't really care who the idea comes from or if it flies in the face of the thing that they've been telling themselves for the last few years.

Yeah, absolutely. Ultimately we come back to this concept of standing for something, and we give multiple examples of companies like Apple versus Samsung—features over benefits. Samsung at different points in the market, had better features in their phone, but Apple stood for something, Tesla versus the Nissan LEAF.

All of these examples of standing for something in the minds of customers, it's generally the result of a lot of hard work through thought leadership and through communicating your point of view in the markets. And I do think those companies that are humble enough to do that work are the ones that yeah, really succeed.

Yeah. That's cool. You want the good guys to win out, right? So, here's something that I see a lot. I want to know if you see this, too: a marketing team that codifies their strategy in such deeply structured ways that it's hard for their customer to make sense of what they're saying.

There's so much hierarchy, and there are pillars upon pillars and sub-pillars, and it can also feel a little bit like inside baseball to customers, who are some of them just coming to their website, and checking out the company for the first time ever, and they just want to understand something simple.

IIs that something you see in the work that you do?

Yeah, for sure. Striking the right message to the right user at the right time is ultimately the crux of the marketing challenge. I think we often talk about if somebody just lands on your homepage, we've probably failed, because they should be landing on a specific product page or a specific solutions page, something like that.

I think there are levels of messaging that we strive for. I touched on tactical, strategic, and visionary messaging. And usually you want your homepage to allude to the concepts of your visionary message. So how are we changing the entire market? But you want to have a clear route to that tactical messaging of “me, as an end user,” versus “me, as a financial buyer.”

How do I get the benefits from this product? How do I tactically roll this out? What does this mean for my day-to-day job? So having clear roots from visionary to strategic to tactical messaging is really important for us.

We've seen some really interesting cases of companies surrounding accounts with really interesting approaches to content. So things like Stripe Press, the publishing arm of their business, is entirely different from what they offer as a value prop, but they give a lot of users a root into their company of learning about Stripe, for example. And I think that ability to provide the right content is super important.

Just because it's top-of-mind, I think generative AI will give us a lot of new roots for this. We use generative AI as a co-pilot every day in creating content that strikes the right message, the right user at the right time, and providing our market analysis to really understand our users—How they consume content? What is the activating benefit from them?

And so yeah, I think it's a really interesting challenge that marketers will be expanding their toolkit on in the next year or so.

So I think you're saying something interesting: if you know the context, and you can write for the context of that person in that moment, in that place, then you don't have to be as complicated because you have more information about what they really care about in that moment.

Yeah, exactly. I think matching content to users' needs is ultimately what we're trying to do in the activation of a category strategy, and trying to get a deep understanding of our personas, making sure that our ICP is correct, and then matching those personas with the right message is pretty crucial.

I just want to say as a counterpoint, I kind of think it's good when people just come to the homepage, too. Because the people that just come to the homepage either know you by name recognition or maybe a friend told them about you. I think the stronger the brand is, the more likely people will just come to the homepage, and I think that's a good sign.

Yeah, I think so. My background is in assessing buyer intent, and there are just the statistics of if you land on a page deeper, you're displaying greater buyer intent. I totally agree with you that for top-of-funnel brand awareness, we need that website traffic so that we're driving the initial interaction with the brand so that we have greater visibility in-market, that we have greater name recognition, the two have to go hand in hand for sure.

Now moving from category strategy into the actual creation of the brand, the creative and the stuff that you can see, like the copy and the brand design and things like that. I think I have just been so disappointed by—I'm not necessarily talking about my own clients, well, maybe sometimes, but by—companies that put a lot of effort and money into the strategy of category creation, and you think like, okay, this is going to be huge.

And then you see the brand, the creative execution of it, and you're like, this looks like every other thing in the world. And it doesn't feel very different. It doesn't feel like the brand creative is really living up to the strategy.

This is sort of a leading question, But do you see that? And for the companies that are doing this well, for example Bizzabo came out with a really great brand after they did their category strategy. That feels like that's a new set of qualities—to be able to make that transition into then doing the brand creative really well.

Yeah, I totally agree. And I think we've had therapy sessions together where you see how soul-destroying it is after the energy created in a workshop. Everybody comes out with incredibly ambitious goals for the future and real strong alignment about where we're going as a company. And for that to fall off the radar in the coming months—that is something that feels like a huge missed opportunity.

And ultimately this comes back to just seeing it through and doing the work. So now we have two assessments. We measure a company's brand, and we have a portfolio company BlueOcean that also helps measure brand. And we ask companies, “Track your brand over the next couple of months.”

There are multiple indicators of success of how strong your voice is in-market. And if we're at a plateau, for the next couple of quarters, we know that we're not really seeing this through, and we're not saying something really evocative in-market.

And then we also have an alignment score, which we assess internal stakeholder alignment across the executive team and below. Are we all in agreement of this is what we stand for in the coming years?

So, you touched on Bizzabo, but I can name TytoCare and Charge Bee and Bamboo Health and OwnBackup, and multiple of our portfolio companies who saw this as a company-wide strategic effort.

They really gave it the resources. Everybody bought into the process. They, for several quarters, took this to market across customer advisory boards, and event launches, making sure that their brand really stood for something in-market. And so they're the ones that now are category leaders, and are, ultimately, reaping the rewards of a lot of hard work.

And there are innovators, there are time expanders, there are category disruptors. Whatever route you take to this, once you give it the adequate time and resources, I think most teams can see it through to fruition and reap the benefits.

Is the CMO really the crux of that? Is it like when you have a CMO who can both help a leadership team come up with a visionary strategy and then move seamlessly into things that are more about making and craft? Is that the single person that you really need in order to make that transit?

Yeah, I think the CMO as the ultimate change catalyst is important here. They're ultimately pulling the strings. They have the same volume in the room as everybody else, but they have a megaphone and execution. I think ultimately what we want to collect is as many data points across the organization in the strategic side of this project. But in terms of execution, the CMO has to bear responsibility for how much of an impact we make in-market when we go there. And so we work with visionary CMOs.

Josh, we collaborated with one in Q4, and we just see the difference of a really effective people manager who gets people excited about the process, somebody who can really pull together multiple disparate parts of the organization to rapidly evolve something like a POV. Test that in-market in a really efficient way. Bring it to market in a really evocative way. And then instill it in everything the company does.

We want this to be future-proof. It's a big effort. We don't want to change this in a year or two’s time. So it's the CMOs legacy that's on the line here—if you created sustainable category strategy, it should outlive you in your job.

Latané Conant, from 6Sense, said something on this podcast a few episodes ago where she was saying that she didn't really love the culture of doing these really big launches, where everything was a big reveal. She liked getting category messaging out there in a lightweight way, so you could start to get a little bit of feedback from customers.

And I know that in the world of category design, there's this idea that like, okay, we're going to do this lightning strike and it's going to be a big reveal and, what do you think about that? Because when I heard what she said, it really did ring a bell that like, I think there's a number of our clients who would be better served by just getting the messaging out there so they can start to hear what customers are saying.

Yeah, I generally lean into that approach—rolling thunder as opposed to lightning strike. I think there's an opportunity to test and grow in-market and not dilute your message at all. It's often useful when we're doing something fundamentally transformative, to have a big launch event that could be a customer conference, but there are no rules about how to make that effective.

We had TytoCare, who are revolutionizing virtual primary care, they launched at Health in Q4 and took over the entire event, which is one of the biggest industry events in healthcare. And they did that as a smaller company. There were companies like Amazon Health, Cigna, and major players in the healthcare industry, who had a much smaller voice in the room than TytoCare.

But TytoCare we're building up to it in advance, getting strategic placements in the press, updating their website, talking to their strategic partners, doing a lot of the work before the event so that by the time they really launched something, that everybody was primed, that the market was ready, and that they were willing to embrace what TytoCare was offering.

So I definitely see Latané’s point. I think she's one of the best in the business. So who am I to challenge?

Agreed. Okay, so we're coming to the end of our time, but Paul, first I wanted to ask you, do you have any final words of advice for founders, CEOs, and CMOs who are thinking about category strategy and launching a new category in the world?

Yeah, I think the core concept from my point of view is to not look at category like you have a hammer to every nail. Category solves a lot of major problems that organizations face. It cannot solve things like product-market fit. So you need to make sure that you have your foundations in place for a category strategy to be effective.

And then once you invest in it, invest all the way. There is no middle ground in category strategy. It'll be a black hole of lost time and resources unless you fully commit to this across the organization and understand that it is fundamentally not a marketing activity. It impacts every part of the organization.

And then just finally, for CMOs, I would say we are at the cusp of a brave new world. To go back to the buzzy elephant in the room, I think generative AI will be fundamentally transformative in how we think about category, how we develop our category strategy, and how we execute on it.

And so just internally, anecdotally, we use it for testing ideation, especially if I'm working on prep for category strategy in an industry that I'm not super familiar with. I can test concepts against GPT4. I can do deep market analysis. I can look at product development. I can test messaging. I can also look at personalization.

So I would say use the tools that are there at the moment to be a conduit to making your category strategy faster, more effective, and more impactful in-market.

Okay, so let's say I'm a busy CMO. I don't have time to be figuring out how to use ChatGPT. Not that it's that hard. But what do I do? Is it about making sure that the people on my team are really good at using these new tools?

Yeah, I think incorporating it into your day-to-day is the best route. We have a GPT-4 guide that we have put together. So we can add that to the milieu of thought leadership that's going around this space at the moment. But I think the best route to market on this is to have GPT-4 as a side screen, or Jasper, or Writer, or one of these bespoke tools that work incredibly well in your marketing stack, and have it open so that you can incorporate different use cases on the day-to-day.

So if you're writing an email and you want to be more compelling, you could test that. If you want to fact-check something, if you want to distill a complex article, if you want to test copy. There are literally infinite use cases. I think that the biggest first step is just getting it open and trying to make it part of your day-to-day.

I haven't used Jasper. What's the difference in terms of the quality of writing between ChatGPT and Jasper?

Yeah, I think one of the most interesting things for me as a marketer about Jasper and Writer is the ability to train off your own data. And also, you know, especially in certain industries, meeting compliance standards. So if I'm in healthcare and I want to be HIPAA compliant, and I don't want to incorporate external data into what I'm creating, then I could just incorporate my own internal brand guidelines or my own internal product wiki.

It's also built for that audience. So if you are a marketer, you get a tool that is custom-built for your end needs. It's extremely intuitive. It's set up with templates like: I want to create a blog post, or I want to create a marketing email, or a thought leadership piece, or white paper.

So there are a lot of benefits for it, but for me, the game changer is really being able to ingest your own data in a secure way, so that it learns much more about your company and your needs.

And what about Midjourney? Are you all using Midjourney a lot for marketing?

At the moment, I would describe our obsession with all things generative as unhealthy. So yeah, we are using everything. We have a very active teams channel where we're testing different concepts. So we've dipped our toes into a lot of pieces. I think what we're trying to do now is figure out what is really transformative for the vast majority of our companies and equip them with those tools.

So we'll continue to iterate and experiment. I think it's our job as the Marketing Center of Excellence to be ahead of the curve on these things. So we're testing everything and we're trying to make sure that we have a clear point of view on everything.

Yeah. I see category a little bit differently than you do, in that, I feel that every company should be looking to make what their message is, and their vision, categorically different from anything else that's out there.

And so I maybe define it a little bit differently than some people do. So I would see Porsche as an example of being categorically different from any other competitor, even though it's maybe not really what a lot of people would call its own category. But either way, to me that's a successful version of category creation.

Yeah, there's multiple ways of doing this. It's just a matter of balancing resources and market opportunity to make sure that we're embarking on a worthwhile endeavor.

Yeah. Well, Paul, it's been wonderful spending this time with you. I just want to thank you for being here.

Yeah. Thanks a million. And Josh, I am a big fan of the podcast, and love working with you. So yeah, really appreciate the opportunity, and look forward to talking soon.

Good. I'll see you down the road.