In marketing, it's absolutely critical to own an idea or thought in the consumer's mind. The label for that word or phrase that is owned is called the category. The category is extremely important because consumers think in terms of categories, not brands.
For example, cola is a category and Coca-Cola is the brand that dominates it. However, diet cola, spiced cola, root beer and ginger ale are all separate categories with separate brands. That is why the category name is so crucial.
If a friend says, I'd like a root beer: you won't hand them a Coke.
Unfortunately, a lot of marketers get ahead of themselves and forget this simple but critical marketing rule.
For instance, Richard Gerstein, Hewlett-Packard's SVP of Worldwide Strategy and Marketing recently told Brandweek that what consumer's really want is a "seamless, multi-device, software-enabled ecosystem."
Next time I go to the store, I'll ask for the seamless software-enabled ecosystem section and wait for the reaction. Obviously, because that's not a category the words have no meaning to the busy consumer.
But say smartphone, mp3, or laptop I'm sure your shopping will be far more successful.
Always remember, the category comes first. Then a brand to own it.