Why It's Smart to Delay Categorization

Sometimes the noun that describes what your company is is very different from the verb that describes what your company does. As consultants whose work integrates strategy, design, communications, branding, product definition, marketing, and innovation, we are careful about when and how we introduce any one of these services to clients. You want to avoid the oversimplification that premature categorization brings. In our case, it could lead to a downward spiral from consultant to agency to studio to vendor. It could be swift and irreversible.

Delay categorization. As Malcolm Gladwell contends in his book Blink, classifications happen in seconds. In their haste to define and assign your offer, prospective clients may be too impatient for an elevator pitch. Ideally, your initial positioning should slow time down to encourage critical thinking about your capabilities.

Names matter. For our business, it started with our name: Catapult Thinking, a promise with perennial appeal. It’s a visual, memorable, positive idea that seems to engage our customers even before they find out what we do. We have always believed that branding "the way" rather than "the thing" gives any value proposition a more formidable trajectory.

Think of brands as platforms. We used a similar "categorization delay" for a startup we branded BodyMedia. It was poised to launch as SenseWear, a nod to their initial wearable computer offer, but we changed it so that the brand could scale to support a more comprehensive product, service, and software roadmap.

Consider using a hybrid vehicle analogy. We occasionally refer to our hyphenated offer as a "hybrid vehicle," going beyond the notion that it’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s a useful handle for a discussion about how we blend expected and unexpected skills to become a more efficient and resourceful consultative partner.

Michael Mooney Partner Catapult Thinking Boston