I thought I saw a purple cow

I read Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin over the weekend because it is a work that is referenced from time-to-time in my other reading and Seth Godin has a good reputation within the marketing industry. The book is becoming a little aged at this point in time, as it was published in 2003. Despite the hype and reputation of the book, I didn’t feel like it lived up to what I was expecting. I jotted down four key thoughts that I remembered after finishing the book:

  1. Look for ways to make your product or service remarkable or memorable (like a purple cow) so that your most loyal audience will become evangelists for you. The idea here is that your most loyal customers will tell others within their circle of influence about your product and they’ll be more likely to listen to them rather than traditional advertising that most people have learned to tune-out.
  2. Don’t think outside the box, rather think around the edges. Innovate by offering the same product and service in ways that no one else is doing or that has not been tried by others in the past.
  3. Identify and serve a niche of customer. The point here is that you shouldn’t try to be all things to all people. If your product is too generic, it will be unremarkable and boring. Don’t be afraid to receive criticism from one segment because it will likely mean that you are appealing to a specific audience in another segment.
  4. Safe is risky because it’s boring and forgettable. The largest part of this discourse talked about large corporations or companies with mature products that make safe decisions in order to protect the business and profits for the product. To be clear on this topic, Mr. Godin wasn’t saying that safe decision making didn’t have its part in business. In fact he recommended that if you have a mature product that is healthy and bringing good profits that you do maintain the status for that reason. The profits should be used to explore new areas of business or new ways to position your existing product.  Without innovating and looking for new products and services your product will become unremarkable and die.

Now there were other points and takeaways from the book. But as I said, these are the ones that stuck with me as I finished the read. As I look back over this list, these are not new ideas or break-through thoughts. They are important concepts though and ones that many play-it-safe organizations don’t think about or realize. So the message of the book is important for all business leaders to understand. If the ideas are new to you or one’s you’d like to understand more about then pick-up the book. It’s a quick read. If they are concepts that you have already read and understand then you should move along. This isn’t the purple cow you thought you saw.