Business Genres

Know your business genre – then create a unique story on top of it

Genre helps make sense out of a story faster. Western. Victorian. Detective. Half of it is pre-downloaded to your memory banks. Thus with the scene set in your head, the creator can focus you on the original story.

When the plane crashed in the first scene of Lost and the survivors stepped out onto a sandy beach with palm trees, we knew the genre even without realizing it: castaway narrative, just like the Tom Hanks movie that preceded it by a few years.

In positioning your business, your product, your solution, you are almost always picking a pre-existing business genre.

But business genres are harder to pin down than counterparts in books/movies. They can be technology platforms or languages, business philosophies, schools of design, or company formations, product-based, and more.

In the world of niche-market expertise businesses, there are 5 to 10 overlapping uber-genres and 100s of sub-genres.

  • SaaS is an uber-business genre; project management SaaS is a child business genre.
  • Technology consulting is a genre; Salesforce consulting is a child business genre
  • Web Development is an uber-genre; sub-genres are Drupal or Squarespace development
  • Digital marketing is uber-genre. PPC advertising and outreach marketing are child genres.

If you identify your business according to an uber-genre, people will be uncertain. We know what a thriller is but it’s more interesting to know whether it’s a legal thriller, a psychological thriller, etc. This means we have to ask the followup question – what kind of

Business genre names evolve rapidly too: in the 80s and 90s, digital transformation was called “automation“; it’s still called that in the profit-rich and change-immune energy sector. 

This is the point: you’re rarely creating a new genre from scratch, like Daniel Defoe did with Robinson Crusoe.

The is the bigger point – genre isn’t enough. The series Lost didn’t retell Robinson Crusoe; it imposed a completely unique story on the genre.

I’m assuming that you know what genre or genres you fit into (probably multiple).

Great, so you don’t have explain that part in your messaging. In fact, please don’t. Everyone has seen it a thousand times already.  

We know the genres.

What you must do is discover  – and capture in the form of published content – how your business and its solutions create something new on top of the business genre you work in. Once you publish on it for a while, writing up the messaging gets easier.

My best

P.S This advice goes against law 5 of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding (The Law of Singularity”) and the book it inspired: Blue Ocean Strategy. If there’s a blue ocean out there for you, then jump in!