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Brands That Created A New Category

Friday, January 12, 2024

Brands That Created A New Category

Rome wasn’t built overnight, and so creating a new category in the business world is a remarkable feat that requires innovation, foresight, and a deep understanding of consumer needs.

Throughout history, certain brands have successfully introduced groundbreaking products or services that not only revolutionized industries but also gave birth to entirely new categories that other businesses followed.

Today, we'll explore several examples of such pioneering brands that have carved out new niches, reshaped markets, and left a lasting impact on the business landscape.

1. Apple: Personal Computers to Smartphones and Tablets

Apple Inc., founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, started as a personal computer company in 1976.

I was about 30 years old when these guys launched the Macintosh in 1984, and I remember how huge it was – both literally and figuratively. It marked a significant milestone in the personal computing and technology industry as a whole.

And then the introduction of the beloved iPhone in 2007 revolutionized the way people communicate and consume information as we knew it. The iPhone created a new category of smartphones, remarkably merging communication, entertainment, and productivity into a single device.

Apple continued its streak with the iPad in 2010, defining an entirely new line of products known as the tablet market. The company's ability to create and dominate new categories gave it the headstart that has made the brand a global technology leader for years.

2. Tesla: Electric Vehicles

Tesla Electric Vehicles

Founded by Elon Musk in 2003, Tesla initially focused on electric powertrains for vehicles. The company gained attention with the release of the Tesla Roadster, an all-electric sports car, in 2008.

Now, I want to clarify that Tesla did not make the first electric car.

The first line of electric cars that were mass-produced came from GM, which they made in response to a California mandate that required automakers to have zero-emissions vehicles ready for the market by 1992.

Though Tesla was a little late to the game, the brand still shifted the automotive industry by producing high-performance electric vehicles that combined sustainability with cutting-edge technology. The Model S (2012) and subsequent models set new standards for electric vehicles in terms of range, performance, and design.

Tesla basically changed the game and made it their own. Their success has prompted traditional automakers like Volkswagen, Ford, and even GM themselves, to accelerate their electric vehicle initiatives, influencing the global shift toward sustainable transportation.

3. Airbnb: Peer-to-Peer Lodging

Founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb emerged during a time when traditional lodging options – like hotels and inns – dominated the travel industry.

Airbnb created a platform that allowed individuals to rent out their homes or spare rooms to travelers, challenging the traditional hotel industry.

This peer-to-peer lodging model offered unique accommodations. With nothing else but the lodging itself as the amenity, travelers had more freedom to explore and shop like locals, themselves.

Airbnb disrupted the hospitality sector, providing travelers with a more authentic and affordable lodging experience. It inspired the growth of the sharing economy.

4. Netflix: Streaming Entertainment

Netflix Streaming Entertainment

Netflix is a prime example of a company that not only disrupted but fundamentally created a new category in the entertainment industry.

Anyone born before 2005 would know that the consumption of movies and television shows was tied to physical media, such as DVDs or VHS tapes, and traditional broadcasting schedules.

This would all change in 2007 when Netflix made a bold move by introducing its streaming service, and changing the way people access and watch content until now.

Netflix shifted from physical media to a subscription-based streaming service, enabling users to access a vast library of movies and TV shows on demand. Instead of relying on physical distribution, viewers could now instantly stream a vast library of movies and TV shows over the internet, anytime and anywhere.

This shift from ownership to access marked a significant departure from the traditional model of purchasing or renting individual titles.

The impact of Netflix's category creation is profound.

It accelerated the decline of traditional video rental stores and reshaped the television and film industry landscape. Competitors and traditional media outlets were forced to adapt, leading to the emergence of various streaming services from both established studios and new players.

5. Amazon: E-commerce

Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 as an online bookstore, not only transformed into an e-commerce giant but also pioneered several innovations that created new categories in the business world.

One of the key ways Amazon created a new category was through its relentless focus on being customer-centric and convenient.

But, if we want to get specific, the introduction of Amazon Prime was particularly game-changing.

By offering a subscription service that provided free, expedited shipping on eligible items, Amazon fundamentally altered consumer expectations regarding the speed and cost of product delivery.

This move blurred the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar retail, setting a new standard for online shopping experiences.

Other notable breakthroughs was Amazon's expansion into diverse product categories through initiatives like Amazon Fresh (online grocery), Amazon Pantry (household goods), and Amazon Echo (smart speakers with voice assistant Alexa). These all further demonstrate the company’s ability to identify and shape new markets.

Amazon’s focus on innovation, customer satisfaction, and an expansive ecosystem has not only solidified its position as a retail giant but has continually pushed the boundaries of what is possible in the business world, creating new categories and influencing the broader retail and technology landscape.

6. Google: Internet Search

Google's internet search engine, launched in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, not only revolutionized the way people access information online but also created an entirely new category in the business world – the search engine industry.

Before Google, internet search engines were often cluttered with irrelevant results.

You could search for something like pet food and they’d give you a webpage about Michael Jackson. It lacked an effective algorithm to deliver accurate and meaningful information.

And so, Google came up with PageRank algorithm, which assessed the relevance of a webpage by analyzing its link structure.

This revolutionary approach significantly improved the quality of search results, turning Google into the go-to search engine for users seeking precise and relevant information.

The impact of Google's search engine went beyond just delivering search results. It became synonymous with internet search itself. The verb "to Google" entered everyday language as a reference to searching for information online.

Google not only created a new category in the business world but also transformed the way people interact with and navigate the vast expanse of the World Wide Web.

7. Red Bull: Energy Drinks

Founded by Dietrich Mateschitz in 1987, Red Bull originated in Austria as an adaptation of a Thai energy drink.

Red Bull's marketing strategy and unique formula created a distinct category within the beverage industry — energy drinks.

The innovation behind Red Bull lay in its unique formula, which combined caffeine, taurine, B-vitamins, and sugar in a carbonated beverage. This formulation aimed to provide an energy boost and increase alertness, catering to individuals seeking a quick and convenient way to enhance their physical and mental performance.

Red Bull positioned itself as a functional beverage that went beyond traditional soft drinks, creating a new category that specifically targeted the need for energy and vitality.

The brand positioned itself as a lifestyle product associated with extreme sports and adventure.

Thus, Red Bull became a global phenomenon, inspiring a surge in the energy drink market. It demonstrated the power of effective branding and unconventional marketing.

8. GoPro: Action Cameras

GoPro Action Cameras

GoPro, founded by Nick Woodman in 2002, revolutionized the way people capture and share their adventures by creating a new category in the electronics market.

This was made in the form of a small, rugged camera, specifically designed to withstand the extreme conditions of action sports and outdoor activities, otherwise known as action cameras.

GoPro's success wasn't just about the product itself; it was equally driven by the brand's marketing strategy.

The company positioned itself as a lifestyle brand, associating its cameras with adventure, adrenaline, and the thrill of extreme sports. GoPro encouraged users to share their footage, creating a community of enthusiasts who showcased their daring activities.

This user-generated content became a powerful marketing tool, further fueling the brand's growth and reinforcing the idea that GoPro wasn't just selling cameras; it was selling a way of life.

GoPro's success also sparked competition, with other companies entering the action camera market. However, GoPro maintained its stronghold through continuous innovation, regularly releasing new and improved camera models with enhanced features.

9. Uber: Ride-sharing

Uber, founded in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick. Similar to Airbnb, Uber challenged the traditional taxi industry by introducing a carpool-like ride-sharing platform.

They developed an app that connected riders with drivers, allowing for on-demand, point-to-point transportation.

This convenient, people-based model transformed the way many think about and access transportation services. Instead of traditional taxis or public transportation, Uber offered a convenient, reliable, and often more cost-effective alternative.

One of the key factors that differentiated Uber was its use of technology to streamline the entire transportation experience.

The app allowed users to request rides, track their driver's location in real-time, and make cashless transactions seamlessly. This level of convenience, coupled with the ability to rate drivers and leave feedback, created a level of transparency and accountability previously unseen in the taxi industry.

Uber's success spurred the rise of similar services around the world and prompted traditional taxi services to adapt to the changing landscape.

The term "Uberization" became a buzzword representing the disruption of established industries by innovative, technology-driven business models.

10. Nintendo: Video Game Consoles

Nintendo, established in the late 19th century as a playing card company, entered the video game industry in the 1970s.

This brand is a longstanding player in the video game industry and has a rich history of creating and popularizing new categories within the business.

One of the most notable instances is the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, which played a pivotal role in reviving the video game industry after the crash of 1983.

Moreover, Nintendo's approach to marketing and distribution played a crucial role in creating a new category within the gaming business. The introduction of the Nintendo Seal of Quality assured consumers of the game's reliability and minimized concerns about the infamous video game crashes of the past.

Nintendo also implemented strict licensing agreements, controlling the number of games released for the system, thereby maintaining a level of quality that further distinguished the NES from its predecessors.

Nintendo's ability to consistently innovate and create new categories has contributed to its enduring success in the video game industry.

11. Fitbit: Wearable Fitness Trackers

Fitbit Wearable Fitness Trackers

The introduction of Fitbit also marked a shift from traditional health and fitness monitoring methods to a more accessible and user-friendly approach.

The company's innovative approach to merging technology and fitness monitoring devices has had a transformative impact on personal health and wellness.

At the core of Fitbit's success was the development of small, wearable devices equipped with sensors to track various health metrics, including steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and even sleep patterns.

By providing users with real-time data and personalized insights into their physical activity, Fitbit fundamentally changed the way individuals approached fitness and health monitoring.

The incorporation of social features, such as challenges and community forums, encouraged users to engage in friendly competition and share their fitness achievements. This social aspect not only motivated users but also contributed to the creation of a community centered around health and well-being.

12. Dollar Shave Club: Subscription-Based Razors

Launched in 2011 by Michael Dubin, the Dollar Shave Club aimed to challenge the established market dominated by well-known brands, transforming the way consumers purchase and perceive shaving products.

They did this with subscription-based razors and men's grooming products, which offered customers a convenient and cost-effective way to receive high-quality razors and grooming products on a regular basis.

The subscription offer addressed the inconvenience and expense associated with traditional razor purchases, where consumers often had to navigate complex and expensive options at physical stores.

Dollar Shave Club's success expanded beyond just razors. The subscription model allowed the company to diversify its product offerings, including shaving creams, after-shave products, and even bathroom essentials.

This holistic approach to men's grooming products contributed to the creation of a comprehensive subscription-based category within the personal care industry.


Whether through groundbreaking technology, disruptive business models, or visionary leadership, these brands have left an indelible mark on the business world, inspiring others to think outside the box and push the boundaries of what is possible.

As the business landscape continues to evolve, it will be fascinating to see which businesses will emerge as the trailblazers of tomorrow, shaping new categories and driving innovation forward.

If you want a better shot at becoming one of those businesses, then I recommend you check out our NO B.S Newsletter, where you can learn about the latest trends in marketing and business as well as some timeless business principles that you can implement for maximum profit.

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