Impact driven category creators are superheroes

Karthiga Ratnam
4 min readMar 5, 2021


“There is a superhero in all of us, we just need the courage to put on the cape.” — Superman

I love Superman. Not because of his super strength, or his X-ray vision, heat vision, super speed, etc. That stuff's cool too. But because of compassion, empathy, and his unwavering belief in humanity. He is pure power, but he tempers it with kindness and humility. If he chooses to, he can make humanity bow down to him. But he doesn’t. For me, Superman’s biggest strength is his ability to unify in the face of polarization.

Photo by Vicki Yde from Pexels

In the US, there is currently a massive debate on the hourly wage. A recent tweet from Dan Price revealed some insightful data.

There is an unfair and massive polarization of wealth and power. There is another parallel that can be drawn. Most of these billionaires are either category creators and leaders or CEOs of category-leading companies. The companies are category creators/leaders of functional categories. It’s my opinion, that functional categories create polarization of wealth, power, and market share. Is it ok for so much of the world’s wealth to be in the hands of so few individuals?

Let me give an example. In an article on GreenBiz, Harry Doull, Founder of Keep, said — “who are the figureheads of the environmental movement that you look to for leadership?”

If you answered Patagonia, then yes, I agree with you (so does Harry Doull). But, that’s because the question was asked with an impact-driven category lens and not a functional one. Keywords in the question being “environmental movement” not “outdoor adventure wear brand”.

If the question was framed as “who are the category leaders of outdoor adventure wear that you look to for leadership?”, would Patagonia have immediately popped into your mind? What if I told you Patagonia IS considered to be the leader in outdoor adventure wear? But that’s not what they are known for. That’s exactly why I admire them so much. They are known for their impact first.

Looking at Apple, Google, Facebook the success of Patagonia defies conventional logic.

1. Patagonia is a certified B corporation

2. They are a consumer brand that discourages consumerism

3. They backed a lawsuit again the previous USA president

And yet they are worth over $1billion dollars.

In a recent blog post, Prof Galloway detailed the annual lobbying expenditures of Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook. Such lobbying is usually done to influence government regulation in their favor, namely the anti-trust law.

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When companies create and lead functional categories without an impact design it negatively affects our communities, society, and planet.

One of my favorite comedians is Charlie Chaplin. He was mocked for not volunteering to fight in WW1. For choosing cinema over country. But the world would soon learn that Charlie had done a far greater service. His movies and comedy proved to be such a source of comfort for wounded soldiers that they were routinely played at hospitals.

It’s fitting then that Charlie said — “you need power, only when you want to do something harmful otherwise love is enough to get everything done.”

Back to Patagonia and impact-driven category creation. Is it a perfect company? No. Is it the world’s most sustainable company? No. But it is a company that had focussed on its impact from the outset. It a company that has inspired an environmental activism movement. Starting with its name.

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In short, Patagonia is a unifying impact-driven category creator and not a functional polarizing one.

Unconscious capitalism would have us believe that amassing power and wealth is par for the course in building category-leading companies. There is abundance in conscious creation. Patagonia is an example of an impact-driven category leader that is profitable, lives up to its purpose, is not perfect but is doing better every day.

My plea to marketers/category creators is as Superman said let’s have the courage to put on the cape and stand up for something. Let’s create impact-driven category leaders that will change the world and save the planet. Let us be superheroes.



Karthiga Ratnam

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7