Creating a New Market? Consider Making Your Own Lightning!

In the book Play Bigger, the authors use the language of the “lightning strike.” From a marketing and PR perspective, lightning strikes are part of the process of category design, a strategy that “focuses on creating a new marketing category, which can then be monetized and monopolized before competitors can enter the space.”

Category design is all about market dominance, and lightning strikes are designed to be big, high-value events that capture customer attention and help shape the larger landscape. The authors of Play Bigger describe them as “a bolt of energy that races straight to the heart of a select audience and that sparks a category to life. They take the form of “launch parties, user conferences, media blitzes, targeted campaigns, or shock and awe programs.”

Effective lightning strikes are “unavoidable” and “life changing” for companies and become the transformational marketing events that an entire company gets behind to capture the market’s attention and fascination. Think of the Apple product launches, when the whole world momentarily stops to see what’s coming next from Cupertino.

Are Lightning Strikes for You and Your Company?

In a word, yes! Lightning strikes are effective tools for both scrappy startups and industry heavyweights because they change the way people think about a category and then proceed to seed new consideration and purchasing behavior. They “introduce us to a problem, frame a new and different way to solve it, and provide evidence that it’s okay to jump into this new world.”

A relevant example from the Play Bigger authors is ridesharing. Fifteen years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine the concept of getting into a stranger’s car for a ride somewhere. Yet it is an accepted practice in 2022 and has created hugely valuable companies like Lyft and Uber.

Making your own, standout lightning strike requires thoughtful advance planning and marketing leaders who create urgency and importance around the event. When preparing for a lightning strike, marketers and PR pros should ask the following:

  • What is creative?
  • What resonates with your audience?
  • What can you do that’s surprising?

Strike, Rinse, Repeat = Rolling Thunder!

Answering the above questions effectively will help your organization build and execute powerful strike events that create “muscle memory” within the target audience when it comes to thinking about your company.

And, as a leader in making impactful events happen for our clients, Bospar knows a lot about successful lightning strikes. For example, we’ve helped establish new niche categories and helped category leaders reposition and defend their space with PR-driven strike events.

Repetition is also key. Bospar’s own research reveals that brands shouldn’t rely solely on marketing-centric lightning strikes, because whether it’s B2B or B2C, the typical purchaser is likely to forget your message after a few weeks. This is why we recommend PR activations that renew your brand every month.

This combination of lightning strikes will create the desired effect and something we like to call rolling thunder. According to Harvard Business Review, “Companies that create a new category typically capture 76% of the total category market capitalization.” In practical terms, this means that your market and customers – and, ultimately, your sales – will get a needed “shock” from a lightning strike.

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About the author

Curtis Sparrer is a principal of Bospar PR. He has represented brands like PayPal, Tetris and the alien hunters of the SETI Institute. He is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and has written for Adweek, Forbes, the Dallas Morning News, and PRWeek. He is an active member of the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association.  Business Insider has twice listed him as one of the Top Fifty in Tech PR.

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