Purple Cow – by Seth Godin

Purple Cow – by Seth Godin ‘Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable’ We love Seth Godin so it’s time to do another Seth book. The premise of the book is that the old way to build a business (making safe, average products and then marketing them by buying as much TV advertising you can afford) is no longer effective. Instead, we need to make remarkable products that customers will tell other people about. The idea is that a brown cow isn’t worth telling someone about, but a purple cow… that’s remarkable, that’s worth talking about. Grab a copy of the book here: https://www.bookdepository.com/Purple-Cow-Seth-Godin/9780141016405/?a_aid=adamsbooks


“Transform your business by being remarkable”


Grab a copy of the book here: https://www.bookdepository.com/Purple-Cow-Seth-Godin/9780141016405/?a_aid=adamsbooks


Here is a dot point summary of the book!


Not enough P’s


Marketers for years use product, pricing promotion positioning publicity packaging pass along permission…


The new P is purple cow


  • Driving through France a few years ago looking at the picturesque landscape, marvelling how beautiful everything was. But after a while everyone started ignoring the cows. The new ones were just like the old ones,  and what was amazing was now common and boring.
  • Cows are boring after a while. A purple cow though, now that would be interesting. For a while though


  • This book is about why you need a purple cow into everything you build
  • Stop advertising and start innovating
  • After advertising we are almost back at where we started


Mores idea diffusion curve

  1. Innovators
  2. Early adopters
  3. Early majority
  4. Late majority
  5. Laggards


  • People now rely on the word of their friends as opposed to TV advertising


Why you need the purple cow

Sad truth about marketing

  1. Most people cant buy your product because they cant afford it, don’t have the time or don’t want it
  2. If an audience doesn’t have the money to buy what you are selling at the price you need to sell it for, you don’t have a market
  • If an audience doesn’t have time to listen or understand your pitch, you’ll be treated as if your invisible
  1. If an audience takes the time to hear your pitch and decide they don’t want it, well your not going to get very far



The world has changed, there are far more choices but less and less time to sort them out

  • Because marketers have overwhelmed customers with too much of everything, people are less likely to go out of their way to tell the friend about a product, unless the friend will be glad to hear about it


Death of industrial complex


Old rule – create safe ordinary products and combine them with great marketing. This used to be targeted at the early and late majority. But value isn’t in the size, it is in its influence

New rule – create remarkable products that seek the right people out. Early adopters heavily influence the rest of the curve


Will and the way

  • Goal of purple cow to show it’s safer to be risky – to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes more imperative to create things worth talking about
  • Like most of Seth’s books, he just gets you fired up and opens your eyes to a new way of thinking. He doesn’t tell you exactly what to do, but he gives you some ideas and gives you the push you need to go out and work it out for yourself


Getting in

  • Only the risk taking idea spreading people on left of curve are willing to listen to you
  • Vast majority of the curve ignores you
  • Once the early adopters embrace what you are selling, they will sell it to the early and late majority, not you


Ideas the spread win

  • A brand or product offering is nothing more than an idea. Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed than those that don’t
  • Sneezers are the key spreading agents of an idea virus
  • Innovators or early adopters may be the first to buy your product, but if they are not sneezers as well, they wont spread your idea
  • Every market has a few sneezers, they are often the early adopters but not always
  • So how to make an idea spread? The sneezes in the huge markets have too many choices and are too satisfied for you to capture there interest
  • The way you break through to the mainstream is to target a niche instead of a huge market
  • Create an ideavirus that is so focused it overwhelms that small slice of the market and truly will respond to what you sell


Who cares?

  • Classical music industry is dying, no new works being written or recorded
  • Sneezes have all the music they need
  • When faced with a market where no one is listening, smartest plan is usually to leave. Plan B is to have the guts and insight to go after a series of purple cows, to launch a product/service/promotional offering that somehow gets the right people to listen


Problem with the cow

  • The cow is so rare because people are so afraid
  • If your remarkable, its likely that some people won’t like you
  • The best the timid can hope for it to be unnoticed.
  • Criticism comes to those who can stand out


Where did you learn to fail?

  • Most in first grade. That’s when you started figuring out that the safe thing to do was to fit in. Colour inside the lines, don’t ask too many questions in class
  • Schools run like factories, line them up in rows, put them in batches (grades), and work them hard so there are no defective parts


In a crowded market place

  • Fitting in is failing
  • Two choices, to be invisible and anonymous, uncriticized , and safe, or to take chances at greatness, uniqueness and the cow


Doctor who wrote books

  • Andrew Weil went to Harvard, became a doctor. Took a different path to his peers and wrote some books
  • Today his books have sold millions of copies, is a speaker and writer and clinics help 100,000’s of people



Follow the leader

  • The problem with the people who would avoid a remarkable career, is that they never end up as the leader
  • Decide to work for a big company, intentionally functioning as an anonymous drone, staying way back to avoid risk and criticism. If they make a mistake and choose the wrong bird to follow, they lose.


Lesson of the cow – safe is risky!


Benefits of being the cow

  • Most people believe that the way to play is to be safe, to hide. So fewer and fewer people work to create a new purple cow
  • Whether you develop a new insurance policy, record a hit record, write a best selling book. In exchange for some risk of failure or ridicule or unfulfilled dreams, the creator the cow gets a huge upside when she gets it right


Once you have something remarkable

  • Milk the cow for everything its worth. Figure out how to extend and profit for as long as possible
  • Create an environment where you can create a new purple cow


Opposite of remarkable

  • Is very good
  • (it’s not ‘bad’ or ‘crap’ or ‘shithouse’)
  • Factories set quality requirements and try to meet them. That’s boring. Very good is an every day occurrence and hardly worth mentioning


Sit there , don’t just do something

  • Doing nothing is as good as doing something great
  • Marketing to keep busy is worse than nothing at all


In search of otaku

  • Otaku describes something that is more than a hobby but little less than an obsession
  • Consumers with Otaku are the sneezers you seek
  • They are the ones who will take up the time to learn about your product and take the risk to try your product, and take their friends time to tell them about it


Process and the plan

  • Is there a formula to create a cow every time?, NO
  • Challenge is to go for the edges. Challenge yourself and your team to describe what those edges are. Test which edge is most likely to deliver marketing and financial results


Power of a slogan

  • A slogan that conveys the essence of your purple cow is a script
  • A script for the sneezer when she talks to her friends
  • Script guarantees the word of mouth is passed on properly


Leaning tower of Pisa  sees millions of visitors every year. It is exactly as advertised. It’s a leaning tower.

So the Pantheon in Rome is more breath taking and beautiful, it only gets 1% of the audience of Pisa


Sell what people are buying (and talking about!)

  • One way is to start with a problem that you can solve for your customer. Then once you have come up with a solution that is so remarkable, that early adopters among this populations will gleefully respond


Magic cycle of the cow

  1. Get permission from the people you impress all of the time. Not permission to spam them, but permission to alert them the next time you think you might have a new Cow
  2. Work with the sneezers in this audience to make it easier for them to help your idea cross the chasm
  3. One you product has gone over the line from remarkable product to profitable business, give the cow to another team and get them to milk it
  4. Do it again. Launch another Purple Cow. Fail until you get a new remarkable Cow to that same audience


Marketers no longer

Businesses used to be divided between engineers, manufacturers, marketers and sales. Engineers designed the product, manufacturers made it, etc. Now, everyone is a marketer, and everyone needs to be involved in product design.


Problem with cheap

  • Once you start, your competitor will likely play the same game in an incremental price war. Ikea can do it, can you?


When the cow looks for a job

  • Odds are , last time you switched jobs you used a resume. Following conventional wisdom you may have sent it to hundreds or thousands of employers.
  • Another way, be remarkable. Remarkable people with remarkable careers seem to switch jobs with less effort. Remarkable people don’t even have a resume. Instead, they rely on sneezers who are quick to recommend them when a  job opening comes up
  • References available upon request? Nonsense! Your references are your resume!!!


Is it about passion?

  • The point of the cow is, you don’t have to like it. You only have to realize that nothing else is working. The proof is there, the big brands, the big successes, profitable start ups have been all about the cow
  • When Comedy Central focus group tested South Park, it scored 1.5/10 for woman
  • But the group that mattered, adolescent boys and those who act like them spread the word



  • LL Bean can sell mail order clothes to people who don’t trust mail order, if it doesn’t work. You can take a pair of pants, light them on fire and send them back and they will refund your money
  • One restaurant puts open a bottle of win on every table. At the end of the meal you tell them how many glasses you consume, they call it the honour system


Salt is not boring, 8 more ways to bring the cow to work

  • Think small.
  • Outsource
  • Build and use a permission asset
  • Copy from other industries
  • Go one or two more than a competitor on the edges
  • Find things that are just not done in your industry and do them . Jet Blue has a dress code on planes
  • Ask why not, almost everything you don’t do is due to fear or inertia


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