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  • Writer's picturePhil Alampi

Best Strategic Marketing Books of All Time: Play Bigger

Updated: Jun 13

Marketing books: Play Bigger

Ready to redefine your market and leave the competition behind? Discover how "Play Bigger" revolutionizes marketing with its groundbreaking approach to category design.

Learn how to create, dominate, and lead a market category that sets your brand apart. Dive into our comprehensive guide and transform your marketing strategy into a game-changing force!

A Short Video Summary

Why you should read "Play Bigger"

If you want your business to not just compete but truly lead and innovate in your market, "Play Bigger" is the book you need to read. This book teaches you about category design, a strategy that helps companies set the rules of the game in new market spaces they define themselves. Here’s why this is a game-changer for marketers:

  • Discover the Power of Category Design: The main idea in "Play Bigger" is that the most successful companies don’t just sell great products; they create and lead new market categories. Learning about category design can help you think bigger than traditional marketing strategies, focusing not just on beating competitors, but on creating and dominating an entirely new market space.

  • Learn from Successful Innovators: The authors provide compelling case studies from companies like Apple, Salesforce, and Uber, showing how these giants didn’t just succeed in their markets—they created their own categories. These stories are not only inspiring but also offer practical lessons that you can apply to your own marketing strategies.

  • Gain a Competitive Edge: Understanding and applying the principles of category design gives you a competitive edge. It encourages you to think creatively about how you can lead your market rather than follow. This forward-thinking approach can distinguish your brand and attract more customers who are excited about what you are creating.

  • Enhance Your Marketing Tactics: "Play Bigger" goes beyond just theoretical ideas. It provides actionable advice on how marketers can apply the principles of category design to their daily work. From product development to launching marketing campaigns, the strategies discussed will help you align your actions with the goal of category leadership.

  • Prepare for Long-Term Success: This book is not about quick wins. It’s about making strategic decisions that ensure your company’s relevance and leadership in the long term. You’ll learn how to position your company in a way that makes it difficult for competitors to catch up.

Reading "Play Bigger" will expand your understanding of how to use category design to create market opportunities that didn’t exist before. This can revolutionize how you approach marketing and business strategy, positioning your company not just to succeed today but to lead the way into the future.

How you can stand out from the crowd

"Play Bigger" provides a blueprint for marketers who aim to set their brands apart in a crowded marketplace. The concept of category design not only challenges you to think differently about your market position but also equips you with the tools to create a unique space for your brand. Here’s how embracing category design can help you stand out:

Create Your Own Category: The first step to standing out is to stop competing in an existing category and instead create your own. This involves identifying a need that no other company is addressing in quite the same way you can. Once you define this new category, you position your brand as the leader and set the standards that others must follow.

Focus on Differentiation: Category design is all about differentiation. This means looking at what everyone else is doing and deliberately choosing to go a different route. The more you differentiate your brand and products, the more you'll stand out. This doesn't just attract customers—it creates fans who believe in what you’re doing.

Educate Your Market: When you create a new category, you often need to educate your market about why this new thing matters. This education becomes a form of marketing that not only raises awareness but also builds your brand’s authority. Being seen as an educator in your industry sets you apart as a leader and a trusted source of information.

Align Your Messaging: To truly stand out, every piece of your marketing puzzle should clearly communicate your category’s message. From your website to your social media posts, everything should reinforce what your category is about and why it’s important. Consistent messaging helps to build a strong, coherent brand that people recognize and remember.

Innovate Continuously: Category leaders can’t rest on their laurels; they must continue to innovate within their category to stay relevant and maintain their lead. This ongoing innovation should be at the heart of your marketing strategy, showing your audience that you are always moving forward and improving.

Applying the principles from "Play Bigger" can transform your approach to marketing and business strategy. By focusing on creating and leading a new category, you not only stand out from the crowd but also build a brand that could dominate the market for years to come. This strategic positioning is what separates successful companies from the forgotten ones.

Creating ridiculously good content

When you're aiming to dominate a new market category, as "Play Bigger" suggests, creating standout content is essential. This kind of content does more than just inform; it inspires and convinces your audience that your category and your brand are worth their attention and loyalty. Here are some ways to craft content that truly resonates and reinforces your category leadership:

  • Align Content with Category Principles: Every piece of content you create should reflect the unique aspects of the category you’ve designed. It should echo the core principles and values that differentiate your category from the rest. This alignment helps to solidify your position as the category leader and educates your audience about the new market space you've created.

  • Use Stories to Illustrate Value: People connect with stories more deeply than with facts alone. Use storytelling to highlight the benefits of your category and your products. Share customer success stories, behind-the-scenes looks at your company, or the story of how your category came to be. These stories help to humanize your brand and make your category relatable.

  • Focus on Solving Problems: Your content should consistently focus on solving real problems that your target audience faces. Show how your category addresses these issues in ways that no other existing solutions do. This not only educates your audience about the relevance of your category but also positions your brand as the go-to expert in this newly defined space.

  • Encourage Interaction: Interactive content such as quizzes, polls, and interactive videos can engage your audience more deeply and make the learning process about your category fun and memorable. This type of content invites your audience to participate actively, increasing their investment in what you’re teaching them.

  • Highlight Innovations and Updates: Keep your audience informed about the latest innovations, updates, and expansions within your category. Regular updates keep the content fresh and the audience engaged, showing that your category and your brand are dynamic and continuously evolving.

Creating ridiculously good content in the context of category design involves educating, engaging, and inspiring your audience. When done right, this content not only raises awareness of your category but also builds a strong community of followers who believe in and advocate for your brand’s vision and leadership.

Elevating your digital marketing strategy

Adopting the concepts from "Play Bigger" can revolutionize your digital marketing strategy. Focusing on category design, where you define and lead a new market space, requires a dynamic approach to how you manage your online presence. Here’s how you can elevate your digital marketing to support this ambitious goal:

Targeted Online Campaigns: Tailor your digital marketing campaigns to highlight the unique aspects of the category you’re creating. Use targeted ads, customized content, and social media strategies that speak directly to the needs and interests of your ideal customer base. This focused approach helps to attract and retain a dedicated audience that is invested in your category.

Content Marketing That Educates: Since you're leading a new category, much of your digital content should focus on educating your market about the value and necessity of this category. Blogs, infographics, videos, and webinars can be excellent tools for this. They provide rich content that helps to explain what your category is, why it matters, and how your products or services fit into this new space.

Leverage SEO for Visibility: Optimize your website and content for search engines with keywords that are relevant to your new category. This SEO strategy improves your visibility when potential customers search for solutions that relate to your category. Being highly visible in search results is crucial for establishing and leading a new market space.

Utilize Social Proof: As you build your category, gather and showcase social proof such as testimonials, case studies, and user reviews that support the credibility of your category and your brand. Sharing these on your digital platforms can help to build trust and validate the new market space you’re creating.

Engage with Your Community: Use your digital platforms to create and nurture a community around your category. Engage with your audience through regular updates, interactive posts, and direct communications. This engagement not only builds loyalty but also fosters a group of advocates who can help spread the word about your category.

Analyze and Adapt: Digital marketing provides the tools to track the effectiveness of your strategies in real time. Use analytics to monitor how well your efforts are supporting your category design. Be prepared to adapt your strategies based on what the data tells you about your audience's behavior and preferences.

Elevating your digital marketing strategy with these approaches not only supports the ambitious goal of category design but also sets a solid foundation for your brand to lead and thrive in this new space. With a strong digital presence that educates, engages, and excites, your brand can clearly establish itself as the leader in the new category you've created.

Helping your marketing team excel long term

Using the strategies from "Play Bigger," you can set your marketing team up for long-term success. The focus on category design not only inspires innovation but also cultivates a team dynamic that is proactive and leadership-oriented. Here’s how you can help your team excel with the insights from the book:

  • Cultivate a Leadership Mindset: Encourage every member of your marketing team to think like a leader. This involves understanding the bigger picture of your category and the role they play within it. Empower them to make decisions and take actions that align with the vision of leading the category.

  • Promote Continuous Learning: To stay ahead in a newly created category, your team needs to keep learning about market trends, consumer behaviors, and emerging technologies. Encourage ongoing education through workshops, webinars, and conferences. This not only keeps your team knowledgeable but also energized and engaged.

  • Foster Innovation and Creativity: Leading a new category requires out-of-the-box thinking. Create an environment where creativity is encouraged, and new ideas are welcomed. Regular brainstorming sessions and the freedom to experiment can lead to innovative solutions that solidify your leadership in the category.

  • Strengthen Collaboration: Strong collaboration across different areas of your marketing department is crucial when you are defining and dominating a new category. Make sure there are open lines of communication and that team members can easily collaborate on projects. This helps in aligning efforts and ensures that everyone moves together towards common goals.

  • Set Clear Goals and Metrics: Define clear, achievable goals that support your category leadership ambitions. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Additionally, set metrics to evaluate the performance of your team and the impact of your strategies. Regular reviews of these goals and metrics keep the team focused and accountable.

  • Encourage Adaptability: In a new market category, conditions can change rapidly. Teach your team to be adaptable, to think on their feet, and to adjust strategies as needed. This flexibility is key to maintaining leadership in a category that might evolve as it grows.

By implementing these strategies, you can help your marketing team not only adapt to the challenges of leading a new category but thrive in them. This long-term view fosters a team that is capable, confident, and committed to the vision of the category, ensuring sustained success and innovation.

A Detailed Summary of "Play Bigger"

New York Times Bestselling Author

Step by Step Included?



Year Published






"Play Bigger" is a book that guides marketers and business leaders on how to create and dominate new market categories. It's written by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney, who use their extensive experience to explain the concept of category design. This summary breaks down the main points of the book, showing how these can be transformative for marketers.

The Concept of Category Design: The authors introduce the idea that the most successful companies don't just try to be better than their competitors; they create and define entirely new fields of competition. By designing a new category, a company sets the criteria by which all other brands are measured, thus leading and controlling the market.

The Role of Timing and Context: "Play Bigger" emphasizes how critical timing and the broader market context are to the success of category design. The book discusses how to recognize the perfect time to launch a new category, considering both market readiness and the necessary technological advancements that can support this new category.

Creating and Dominating Markets: The book outlines strategies for not only creating a category but also dominating it over time. This involves continuous innovation, public relations efforts to shape perception, and constant vigilance to stay ahead of potential competitors who may enter the space.

Case Studies from Successful Brands: Throughout "Play Bigger," the authors provide examples from well-known companies like Apple, Salesforce, and Uber. These case studies illustrate how these companies carved out new niches and dominated them, fundamentally changing their industries.

Practical Advice for Marketers: Marketers are given specific advice on how to apply the principles of category design to their strategies. This includes how to market a product in a way that educates consumers about a new category, how to position the brand as the leader of this category, and how to maintain that leadership position.

Long-Term Thinking: Finally, the book stresses the importance of long-term strategic thinking. Successful category design is not about quick wins; it's about setting up a brand for long-term dominance by continually reinforcing and evolving the category’s relevance.

"Play Bigger" is not just a book about being successful in business; it's about changing the landscape of business altogether. For marketers, the insights provided offer a powerful framework for thinking beyond the traditional boundaries of competition and really innovating in ways that redefine what’s possible in their industries.

More from one of the authors, Al Ramadan

Release and Impact in Modern Marketing

Since its release, "Play Bigger" has significantly influenced the way marketers and business leaders approach their strategies. The book’s focus on category design has introduced a transformative way of thinking that goes beyond traditional marketing methods. Here’s a look at how "Play Bigger" has impacted modern marketing:

  • Inspiring a Shift in Strategy: "Play Bigger" has inspired companies to shift their focus from competing within established markets to creating new categories. This approach has led to the development of innovative products and services that define and dominate new market spaces. Marketers are now more proactive in shaping market perceptions and setting the standards by which entire industries operate.

  • Encouraging Boldness in Branding: The principles outlined in "Play Bigger" encourage brands to be bold and visionary. Marketers have taken these ideas to heart, crafting bold branding strategies that emphasize uniqueness and leadership. This has not only helped brands stand out but also fostered a deeper connection with consumers who are drawn to clear, strong brand identities.

  • Fostering Innovation: The impact of "Play Bigger" is evident in the increased focus on innovation across industries. Marketers are encouraged to think creatively and push the boundaries of what's possible, leading to groundbreaking campaigns and marketing techniques. This innovation is crucial in today's fast-paced, ever-evolving market landscapes.

  • Improving Long-Term Planning: "Play Bigger" stresses the importance of thinking long-term and strategically about market presence. This has led marketers to plan more thoroughly, considering not just immediate goals but also how their actions fit into a larger effort to lead and define their categories for years to come.

  • Enhancing Collaboration Across Disciplines: Understanding and implementing category design requires a collaborative effort across multiple disciplines within a company. Since the release of "Play Bigger," there has been a noticeable increase in collaboration between marketing, product development, and strategic planning teams, ensuring that all efforts are aligned with the goal of category leadership.

The release of "Play Bigger" has not only changed the way companies market themselves but also how they envision their roles within their industries. By promoting the practice of category design, this book has encouraged marketers to lead, innovate, and think strategically about their long-term impact on the market. This shift has led to more dynamic and successful marketing practices that continue to shape the future of industries globally.

Want to read this book?

Add it to your marketing books wishlist or purchase it now at the link below. At Liquid GTM, we regularly use the techniques in this book to help grow our business. We highly recommend it!

Special Offer

Schedule a 15-minute consultation with our founder, Phil Alampi, to explore how Liquid GTM can immediately contribute to achieving your objectives. As a token of appreciation, we’ll provide a complimentary video or graphic design, even if you decide it’s not the right time for you*.

Don’t miss out – secure your slot today and let's create something amazing together!

*Applies only to companies of 100 employees or more who have a genuine need for visual marketing services. The offer is intended to show these companies the ease of doing business and great results when working with Liquid GTM.

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