Author: Seth Godin
Published in: 2004
You're either a Purple Cow or you're not. You're either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice.
What do Apple, Starbucks, Dyson and Pret a Manger have in common? How do they achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and-true brands to gasp their last? The old checklist of P's used by marketers - Pricing, Promotion, Publicity - aren't working anymore. The golden age of advertising is over. It's time to add a new P - the Purple Cow.
"Purple Cow" describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat-out unbelievable. In his new bestseller, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It's a manifesto for anyone who wants to help create products and services that are worth marketing in the first place.
Takeaway #1: You are probably missing this all important P
Back in the day, marketing was straightforward, made up of product, pricing, promotion, position, publicity, packaging, pass-along, and permission. Today, however, there’s a P-word that trumps all others, and it’s essential if you want to succeed: Purple cow.
Purple cow usually refers to the remarkability of a product in itself, but it can also refer to how the product is packaged, positioned, priced, and promoted compared to a competitor’s closest product.
In today’s fast-paced world, where consumers are bombarded by advertising 24/7, the only way for your brand to shine and succeed is to develop and market products that stand out from the crowd by being new and noteworthy, thereby catching the attention of influential consumers.
Takeaway #2: The different world of advertising is today
In the past, consumers had more time on their hands and fewer products on the market, so it was easier for companies to get their products in front of consumers.
It worked like this: First, a giant market open to new products was claimed. Next, a huge factory was funded, so that new products could be made. Then, masses of TV ads were bought, and business owners were able to sit back and relax as the ads turned into huge sales, followed by alternative distribution methods. You didn’t need a fancy product or new product releases—just something safe and average that people needed or wanted, along with a long product cycle—and a great advert would sell it.
These days, however, despite the leaps and bounds that have been made with technology, people are working longer hours, they are inundated with overlapping product choices, and they are far more savvy and even cynical of marketing techniques; therefore, they are far more able to ignore and tune out marketing messages.
Add to this some other sea changes—the easy-to-reach marketing groups of yesterday are now nearly impossible to reach, the power of word-of-mouth has diminished, and if people do buy what you are marketing, they expect total satisfaction or their money back—and suddenly the world of traditional marketing can look rather bleak.
Takeaway #3: Marketing in today’s marketplace
The old rules of gaining that promotional punch have flipped; today, major innovation is producing unique products with short product cycles and niche marketing to “early adopters.” It’s all about creating remarkable products that the right people seek out, rather than creating products that everyone needs and marketing to large audiences.
Starbucks, Apple, FedEx, and Linux are all high-profit brands that have emerged and thrived since the end of the television advertising era. Despite selling completely different things, they each have one thing in common: they are individually distinctive, each remarkable in their own way.
Let’s look at what makes some companies and their products stand out: JetBlue and Southwest Airlines pioneered the era of low cost flights. FedEx gave its customers product-tracking and reliable delivery dates when no one else did. Dr. Bronner’s soap comes in a quirky package. They do not advertise their soap, yet sales continue to grow. Which companies can you think of that have done something remarkable and changed the way consumers shop forever?
Takeaway #4: Create your own Purple Cow
Use these tips to make your business and its products or services remarkable:
- Come up with a number of ideas to make your products more appealing to niche customers.
- Target a tiny niche market and develop a very specific product.
- Don’t be afraid to outsource—not only can it be cost effective, but partners may have an idea to make your product more remarkable.
- Give your loyal customers or clients the distinctive products that they want.
- Learn from initiative business leaders who have created something extraordinary outside of your industry.
- Don’t play it safe. Think outside the box when it comes to your product planning, marketing, and pricing.
- Dare to do things that are “simply not done” in your industry. Break the mold!
- Don’t let fear stop you. You must be willing to fail when you try something new in order to learn, grow, and become extraordinary.
- When you have found your profitable product, stick with it as long as possible to continue making money from it.
- Ensure that you give your customers the narrative and the quality that they need to share your item or service through word-of-mouth.
Takeaway #5: Get in front of the ‘sneezers’
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll succeed with your remarkable product or service unless people know about it and are talking about it, but that doesn’t mean you should aim to get your product seen and heard by anyone and everyone. In the same way that ideas spread, you need to make your purple cow spreadable, and the easiest way to do that is to get it in front of influencers. Think of influencers as “sneezers” who will spread your purple cow far and wide through word-of-mouth as if it were a virus, but in a good way!
These so called sneezers are the eager and willing trendsetters of the world, the people who like trying something new and exciting, and who then can’t wait to let their friends and family know about the fantastic new thing—be that a product, new piece of technology, service, or something else. The only way to catch the attention of a sneezer is to tap into a small product niche, one that is perfectly ripe for the picking, and to create a new product or service that is so remarkable, it knocks the sneezer’s socks off!
You will need to analyze your sneezers to learn as much about them as possible, since you’ll only be aiming your purple cow at the ones who have the most influence. Consider the following points when working out if the sneezers you have in mind will take your purple cow virus and sneeze it all around the world:
- Is your idea/product quick and easy to share?
- Will other people listen to the sneezers?
- How often will the sneezers tell their friends and family about it?
- Can your product or idea multiply easily so that it spreads long-term?
- Latching onto sneezers might sound as if it will never work, starting out with such a small, focused audience, but once your purple cow catches on, it has a high chance of spreading quickly. Just be sure that you’re ‘“working the edges” and not standing in the middle of the road with your product or brand.
Companies that are remarkable work at one extreme or another—they work the edges, the outer limits. Their products are either very expensive or so cheap that consumers can’t resist snapping one up; and their business growth is either hare or tortoise speed, meaning very slow and deliberate or very fast. To work the edges successfully, you have to pick a side, rather than choosing to stay in the safe, yet boring and unsuccessful middle ground.
When creating your purple cow, take a close look at your marketing P’s (products, pricing, positioning, publicity, etc.) and see where your outer limits are right now, and what boundaries constrict you and your competition from going bigger and better. Find a way to innovate and go over the edge, crossing all boundaries, so that your product becomes a remarkable purple cow.
In the words of Seth Godin, “Remarkable isn’t always 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 to your software. Getting in the habit of doing the ‘unsafe’ thing every time you have the opportunity is the best way to learn to project—you get practice at seeing what’s working and what’s not.”