How To Write Your Category History

In today’s blog, I am going to show you how to research and explain your category’s history for your product narrative.

You’ll want to learn how to do this for three reasons.

  1. It will become one of three parts to your product narrative opening.

  2. Audiences love nostalgia, a great story, and humor. It’s a great recipe to make your opening instantly memorable.

  3. Third, it puts your audience on the same page as you. Collectively, we are having the same experience of your product narrative.

When you talk about your product’s category history from your point of view, your product narrative becomes unique. You also eliminate the struggle of trying to figure out where to start your narrative, and how to make it into a story. Last, you create a sense of expertise. You know this category because you know the history of this category.

The goal is to instantly attach your category to your product.

If you are creating a new category, it’s even more important to educate your audience on what this new category is and from where it emerged. You must take the time to do this in your narrative or your audience will be lost from the start.

Unfortunately, many people never talk about their view of their own category. They allow the media and their customers to define their category for them. Over time, your product can completely shift to the wrong category you want it to be in.

Your opening is the most important part of your product narrative.

More reasons people don’t start with their view of the category history:

  • They don’t know how to craft a story

  • They don’t know their product one-liner, so they don’t know their category

  • They aren’t sure if their view point is right (spoiler: it doesn’t matter)

  • They’ve never thought about their category before

  • They don’t want to challenge their founder’s point of view

Let me show you how to tell your point of view on your product’s category.

Here’s how, step by step:

Step 1: Think of the key moments in history that created your category.

We want to establish our long view of the history of the category because it builds credibility for our product. If you’re creating a new category, this builds credibility for your category as a whole. If you rewind time from today, how did we get to your product category? How did the internet happen? How did remote work start?

How did we start using automation?

Step 2: When you tell the story of those key moments, use stakes and humor to explain each moment’s problem and why it didn’t work.

A lot of folks go wrong telling these key moments because they just read them off like a list of events.


We lived through them and know what they are. How are they different for you?

Add stakes and humor but tell the story of how just when we thought everything was coming together, it changes on us. Stakes create the drama and urgency – why the problem is critical, why customers need a solution today and what happens if they wait. It creates tension and pull for your audience to want to hear a resolve. Humor makes you and the content personable, relatable, and signal to your audience they are going to have a good time with you.

In Slack’s category history, I talk about how we swing from cubicles to hot desks to corporate campuses. How cubicles siloed humans from each other, and just as we’re taking the physical walls down of cubicles we create invisible walls by being too close to each other with hot desks. Now, we’re terrorizing introverts. They’re wearing headphones just to make it seem like they’re busy so nobody bothers them. And while Google is creating digital tools and telling us to get into the cloud, it also wants to do our laundry for us and feed us dinner at work.

Who doesn’t like a good chuckle in the middle of their day of back to back meetings?

Step 3: Identify one big moment that changes everything.

This is the moment that transforms the category and either breaks everything or draws a line in the sand and forces people to wake up and make a decision.

Whatever this moment is, it is going to help you find the problem your customer did not know they had.

We want to get them to a place where they cannot “unsee” this problem. They are going to notice it everywhere now.

Step 4: Finish your point of view by explaining where we are today.

Explain where we are today in the category and what we’ve realized. You’ve just unloaded a lot of new information on everyone, so catch everyone up on what we’ve collectively learned.

Now that everyone is on the same page, this realization is the first building block to the problem we can’t unsee.

Before we figure that out, start pitching this version to people and see their response. Maybe they don’t agree with your version of history. Adjust your point of view if they’re right.

See where they don’t chuckle, add more humor. Notice where they ask for more details, get more specific.


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