Book Review: Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

If you want to stand out from the crowd, you cannot simply be very good. According to Seth Godin, you have to be remarkable. Godin offered this advice in his book, Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable*. As I write this post from my office at a community college in a small corner of New York, I am wondering what makes this college remarkable enough to distinguish itself from the hundreds of other community colleges across the nation.

In this book, Godin added the idea called the “Purple Cow” to the five Ps of marketing (product, pricing, promotion, positioning, publicity, packaging, pass-along, and permission). The idea of  the Purple Cow came out of story of being in France and seeing hundreds of black and white dairy cows. While the cows were beautiful, over time they become invisible,; however, as Godin noted a purple cow tends to jump out at you (Godin, 2009, Loc. 109).

Godin’s writings inspire me because he causes me to think differently about the world. He challenges me to take different paths. I do this in part because of the sense he makes while writing as well as a desire to stand out in the crowd. I want to be recognized for the ideas I bring to the table. Playing it safe does not seem to move the ball forward far and fast enough. Unfortunately, there are many who are satisfied with the status quo and take the safer road.

Safe is risky (Godin, 2009, Loc. 723).

Throughout his book of 224 pages, Godin advocated for risk taking because of the advantages. In fact, he stated that “safe is risky.” He used hundreds of examples to illustrate his point of companies playing it safe only to lose market share to companies willing to take a risk or create a Purple Cow. In this video, Godin spoke about how to stand out and spread ideas. I recommend taking the time to watch it.

One of the features that I have found intriguing about Godin’s books is how he treats chapters. His books are definitely different in this regard. For example, in this book, Godin has included 71 “chapters.” Actually, they are 71 short essays focusing on a single point. Each chapter is quick to read, and each has something to ponder upon. Some chapters are only a paragraph or two.

Godin also tied a number of his examples to research such as Moore’s idea diffusion curve, a concept I learned about in one of my first graduate classes at the University of Wyoming. Rather than market to the middle of the curve, Godin noted we should be marketing to the innovators and early adopters, and they will spread the word to the rest of the curve.

“The world has changed. There are far more choices, but there is less and less time to sort them out” (Godin, 2009, Loc. 217).

Rather than continue to throw dollars into mass media, where the message becomes noise, we need to develop a Purple Cow to distinguish ourselves from the crowd. Basically, people do not see your message if they do not have a need to fill. It is better to find out their need and create a product to address that need. What can you offer that addresses a need that has not been offered before? To be the first and exceptional is remarkable. To follow the pack is not remarkable. You have to be the originator of the Purple Cow. Not only do you have to create the idea, but you also have to put it into action.

While marketing, Godin recommended to target advertising rather than mass-marketing. Take time to find a niche with a need and attend to that need. Find a niche and excel in that niche.

Godin explained the Purple Cow was easy to find, the challenge was putting it into action. He noted that the primary reason more companies do not have a Purple Cow is that people are afraid, and rather play it safe. As a result, there is lots of opportunity for people willing to take a risk. He also addressed the risk of following the leader. As quoted above, “Safe is risky.”

“So it seems that we face two choices: to be invisible, anonymous, uncriticized, and safe, or to take a chance at greatness, uniqueness, and the Cow” (Godin, 2009, Loc. 643).

Why do you buy vanilla ice cream for a birthday party? Because it is a safe choice, unfortunately, it is not a choice everyone will be talking about.

Once again, Seth Godin has given me lots to think about. If you are looking for some inspiration for where you work, you may want to consider reading Purple Cow*, I am confident that you will start looking for the Purple Cow in your business. If you can’t find it, ask yourself why.


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