Purple COW: transform your business by being remarkable (personal notes) — Seth Godin

The old ways of marketing are dead and being safe is now too risky.

Book Cover

Big companies grew their brands when it was easy and cheap to do it the old-fashion way (TV/Newspaper advertisement). Things that have to work rarely do anymore. You and your team must have the guts to implement one (or more) of the hundred ideas you already have, not to buy another creativity/brainstorming/teambuilding book! If you fail at least you will have learned another way that doesn’t work.

Probably you have heard about the five* Ps: Product, Pricing, Promotion, Positioning, Publicity, Packaging, Permission… now you should know about the Purple Cow strategy.

You must be remarkable, you must be a Purple Cow.

Nowadays the post-consumption consumer is too busy to spend a lot of time researching something and is out of things to buy. Nearly finished products or services push by traditional marketing departments no longer work.

Before advertising, there was word of mouth. During advertising, there was a strong direct relationship between advertising investment and revenue. After advertising, we are almost back where it started (trusted networks). Let’s assume that most people are not interested in your product (no one is listening), don’t have the money or the time to know about it.

Most boring needs are already covered, everybody-products are all taken. Instead, you should focus on finding a market segment, a niche that really and truly will react to what you want to sell, and then make a remarkable product.

Embrace the idea to spend more money on the concept/design of your product as there won’t be a specialized market department to persuade your failed product idea to customers (at least not in the long term). Focus on the innovator’s group (sneezers). Sneezers like to sneeze. Finding and seducing these sneezers is an essential step in creating an idea-virus.

Moore’s idea diffusion curve

Moore’s idea of diffusion curve. (smithhousedesign.com )

Before & After

  • TV-Industrial Age: Average Products, Advertise to anyone, Fear of Failure, Long Cycles, Small Changes.
  • Post TV Age: Remarkable Products, Advertise to the early adopter, Fear of Fear, Short Cycles, Big Changes.

Not all customers are the same

  • Differentiate your customers.
  • Find the most profitable group.
  • Figure out how to reach them (develop/advertise/reward).

The Purple Cow

Adopt alternative approaches to your business, and let your company and you survive to innovate another day. Think in new ways to create, design or sell involving everyone.

What would happen if you gave the marketing budget for your next three products to the designers?

Do not compete in price, the competitors can always play the same game.


Internet forced advertisers to measure, it means admitting what’s broken so you can fix it or optimize your product. How fast can you get the results and iterate?

How to

Change the rules, take the less risky path, nothing is riskier than do not innovate. The marketplace is getting faster and more fluid. The population is more restless than ever.

Milk the Cow for everything it’s worth (as long as possible), and at the same time create an environment to replace it with a new cow when needed, don’t get stuck on the first one!

People don’t buy paint, they buy painted walls.

Go for the edges taking in mind always the financial model, a nonprofitable business is doomed to die.

Explain to your sneezers why it’s worth recommending your product instead of old-fashion slogans. Do you have a positioning statement that is actually true?

Let the team in charge of creating the new company’s purple cow innovate and get out of their way, don’t try to figure out if the new product is going to work, just test it in the real market.

Product attributes are the heart of success or failure, take a design course rather than a marketing one.

If you are a marketer who doesn’t know how to invent, design, influence, adapt, and ultimately discard products, then you are no longer a marketer. You are deadwood.

Create a culture of aggressive prototyping (cheap prototyping), launch products, watch, measure, learn, and do it again.

The cycle of the cow

  1. Get permission from people you’ve impressed the first time, ask the new ones to notify them the next time.
  2. Get the sneezers a story (tools) they will need to sell your idea.
  3. Once it is a profitable business let another team milk it (don’t believe your own press releases).
  4. Reinvest.

Some ideas to be remarkable

Remarkable isn’t about changing the biggest machine in your factory. It can be the way you answer the phone, launch a new brand, or price a revision of your software.

  • Tell the truth, practice the unsafe.
  • Specialize in a very narrow niche and become the best.
  • Market-beating combination of quality and price.
  • Fortify your desire to do truly amazing things.
  • Innovate, avoid the fear of failure, avoid the fear of offending, avoid being boring and safe!
  • Avoid noise to sneezers, doing nothing sometimes is better than doing mediocre achievements.
  • Be the best at anything worth measuring or talking about.
  • Go where the competition is not (as furthest as possible).
  • Explore the limits: cheapest, fastest, hottest, loudest, the outsider, the copycat, the hardest… most!
  • Think of the smallest conceivable market.
  • Build (and use) a permission asset, talk directly to your most loyal customers.
  • Check other companies, whatever they’re known for do that even more (or do the opposite!).
  • Copy (not for your same industry).
  • Ask yourself Why not?

Personal insight

All these ideas also apply to find job opportunities, remarkable people often don’t have a résumé (nothing but an opportunity for a prospective employer to turn you down). Instead, they have a network (sneezers) that recommend them. They take risks and learn from big failures. And all over-the-top references begs for a meeting.

You can find this book in amazon written by Seth Godin .

See also