Purple Cow, Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

When I first picked up Seth Godin's "Purple Cow", I expected insights on marketing strategies and perhaps some innovative advertising tips. I didn't anticipate a complete paradigm shift in how I perceive marketing's role within a business. Godin illustrates that marketing isn't merely a department; it's the essence of how a product is conceived, developed, and experienced by the customer. From the behavior of a button on your app to the overarching perception of your product, every detail is a marketing moment.
December 2023

What Exactly Is a Purple Cow?

Imagine driving through a countryside dotted with countless cows. They're all pretty much the same, right? Now, picture encountering a purple cow amidst the sea of the mundane. That purple cow is unforgettable, remarkable, and, most importantly, worth discussing. This is the essence of what Seth Godin encourages businesses to strive for: being the Purple Cow in a field of sameness.

Picture a row of bookstores, all with similar selections and setups. Then, you find one that sells books and is a hub for live readings, author workshops, and a cozy reading nook with cats lounging around. This bookstore stands out as the Purple Cow, offering an engaging and unique experience that draws book lovers from afar.

A brand (or a new product offering) is nothing more than an idea. Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed than those that don’t. I call ideas that spread, ideaviruses. - Seth Godin

Ideas that captivate and spread independently are the lifeblood of standout marketing. This notion of idea viruses is pivotal, highlighting the power of remarkable concepts that capture the collective imagination and propagate through societal conversations, much like viruses.

The Paradox of Safety and Criticism

In our quest for innovation, we often encounter the twin barriers of fear of criticism and the allure of playing it safe. Godin astutely points out the irony in this:

We often respond to our aversion to criticism by hiding, avoiding the negative feedback, and thus (ironically) guaranteeing that we won’t succeed! If the only way to cut through is to be remarkable, and the only way to avoid criticism is to be boring and safe, well, that’s quite a choice, isn’t it? - Seth Godin

This quote encapsulates many businesses' dilemmas: blending in to avoid critique, daring to be different, and facing potential backlash. Though fraught with risk, the path to becoming a Purple Cow is also the path to actual distinction and success.

Leadership and the Flock Mentality

Godin uses the metaphor of birds flying in formation to challenge the conventional approach to business strategy:

Why do birds fly in formation? Because the birds that follow the leader have an easier flight. The leader breaks the wind resistance, and the following birds can fly far more efficiently. Without the triangle formation, Canadian geese would never have enough energy to make it to the end of their long migration. A lot of risk-averse businesspeople believe that they can follow a similar strategy. They think they can wait until a leader demonstrates a breakthrough idea, and then rush to copy it, enjoying the break in wind resistance from the leader. If you watch the flock closely, though, you’ll notice that the flock doesn’t really fly in formation. Every few minutes, one of the birds from the back of the flock will break away, fly to the front, and take over, giving the previous leader a chance to move to the back and take a break. - Seth Godin

This observation is a powerful reminder that authentic business leadership isn't about following in the wake of others' successes but about having the courage to break from the formation and chart a new course.

The lesson of the Cow is worth repeating: Safe is risky. - Seth Godin

In a world saturated with choices and voices, the riskiest move is to be safe, to blend in. Embracing the Purple Cow philosophy means stepping out of the comfort zone and making waves.

Fostering Mavericks Within

Godin offers a final piece of advice for organizations looking to cultivate their own Purple Cows:

If someone in your organization is charged with creating a new Purple Cow, leave them alone! Don’t use internal reviews and usability testing to figure out if the new product is as good as what you’ve got now. Instead, pick the right maverick and get out of the way. - Seth Godin

This calls for trust in the team's mavericks, those individuals who see what others don't and are unafraid to venture into the uncharted. It's about giving them the space to innovate, create, and perhaps birth the next Purple Cow.

In Conclusion

Purple Cow by Seth Godin is more than just a marketing book; it's a manifesto for differentiation, creativity, and boldness in all aspects of business. The main takeaway, beautifully encapsulated within its pages, is a call to action for companies and individuals alike to be remarkable in every sense. From product development to customer interaction, embodying the Purple Cow philosophy is the key to standing out, spreading ideas, and achieving enduring success in today's competitive landscape.