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Review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

By Edited Dec 21, 2013 2 5

Does anyone know what a Purple Cow is? Whatever it is, it would have to be remarkable. It would stand out. It would be unforgettable. It would certainly be different than anything you have seen before.

Seth Godin is a genius. He can take a little book, less than 150 pages, and explain to you exactly what a Purple Cow is. On top of that, he can convince you that you have the ability to create a Purple Cow of your own.

Purple Cow is a book that helps companies and marketers learn that their company has to be remarkable. Otherwise, they will blend in and be as average as anyone else in the industry. They would look like a plain old brown, black or white cow. Nothing special. But when a company or product is remarkable it suddenly becomes a Purple Cow.

Typical of Seth Godin's other books that I have read, the chapters are often one page or less in length. There are even a few pages that have more than one chapter on them! Since the book is short (like all his books) and the chapters are minuscule, it is probably better to call them subheadings.

The main premise in the book is that in the past it was possible to throw enough advertising money at a product through TV and start a revolution. The product did not have to be remarkable, it just had to be memorable. TV advertising was able to provide that for the large companies that had the money to accomplish their task of saturating the viewer's memory with their cute slogans and pictures. This is what the author calls the TV Industrial Complex.

Godin proposes that the TV Industrial Complex is dead. He says that for a company to do well today they need to engage a small, but passionate audience with a remarkable Purple Cow. Instead of trying to capture the majority of consumers, there is a need to catch a few sneezers. This passionate group of sneezers who are infected with a Purple Cow will spread the virus to their friends and personal audience. From there, a company can capture a much larger audience of people who are not ready to take a chance on a new product. Once the sneezers have tested and proven the Purple Cow, the majority of consumers will jump on board.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin
By the time the majority has started seeing the benefits of the product, it is time for the company to start innovating the idea they currently have, or come up with another Purple Cow. There is one main problem with Purple Cows though: fear. If a company has a great product that is doing well today, it is hard to convince the company they need to go back to their roots and start again. They are afraid of failure.

The book is full of case studies of companies that have done well with creating and marketing a Purple Cow. However, some of those companies have started to languish because they milked their Purple Cow so long that it has become an ordinary product on the market. The company has forgotten to innovate and create a new Purple Cow.

Whether what Seth Godin says in this book is absolutely true or not, his concepts make sense. I think there are probably people who don't agree with some of Godin's bold and subtle explanations. But I wonder if those are the people who are too afraid to create a Purple Cow of their own. They are more willing to target the majority marketplace and hope to gain customers instead of honing in on a few passionate sneezers who will make their Purple Cow remarkable.

Purple Cow is a great book for anyone in marketing or who is interested in ideas for remarkable products. Whether you are involved in creating physical products or selling services you could benefit from reading Purple Cow by Seth Godin.



Jan 28, 2011 10:23pm
Wow, Purple Cow sounds like a really useful book. Would pair well with Blue Ocean Strategy.
Jan 29, 2011 9:09am
I have not heard of the Blue Ocean Strategy, but it sounds like something I should read. Thanks for the comment.
Jan 29, 2011 4:19pm
I actually haven't read purple cow. All of Seth's stuff really resonates with me though. I should check it out.
Jan 29, 2011 4:43pm
I am reading The Dip right now. I think I have read 4 of his books. I read his blog occasionally when someone points out that there is something particularly good on it.
Aug 18, 2012 5:41pm
Thank you for putting this book on my "radar". I will add this one to my Audible.com queue.
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