“You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice.”
That’s Amazon’s description of “marketing guru” Seth Godin’s 2003 book Purple Cow. The description goes on to say “Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or ten, are boring. A Purple Cow, though…now that would be something. Purple Cow describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat out unbelievable. Every day, consumers come face to face with a lot of boring stuff-a lot of brown cows-but you can bet they won’t forget a Purple Cow. And it’s not a marketing function that you can slap on to your product or service. Purple Cow is inherent. It’s built right in, or it’s not there. Period.”
Guess what? I don’t need a purple cow. I won’t forget it, sure, but it serves no purpose to me. Marketing isn’t about trying to be exceptional–it is about showing your use to the right people. To the point where they look at your product and say, “Thank you for showing me that. That is exactly what I needed to see at this very moment.”
I used to read Seth Godin’s blog regularly but have since found it to be pretty much common sense. Don’t screw over people. Don’t lie. I’m in marketing, so therefore I’m a scumbag by default. OK, check. Got it. He now has a book called Tribes, which says we need good leaders. Got it. Thanks.
I just don’t get why I should be excited about any of this stuff. We are in a recession and as anyone who has seen the downsizes, people aren’t spending. It’s not because marketers aren’t trying to be exceptional. It’s partially because our culture is segmenting and ads aren’t considering audience and placement to adjust. It doesn’t matter what color your cow is. It matters how useful someone actually finds your cow.
How would my Guernsey cow kick Seth Godin’s purple cow’s ass? I’d make sure to feed it only the best food and I’d take very good care of it. Then I’d make some awesome cheese out of it’s milk. I’d then take my cheese and I’d give a little piece to top chefs and I’d pay them for their opinions. They’d give me feedback on how my cheese could make their food better. Eventually my cheese would be so good, they’d probably use it. Because these top chefs use it, the lesser chefs, wannabes, bloggers, talk shows, and magazines would pay attention. Now look at me. My cow isn’t purple. It’s a boring looking brown and white cow. And it’s kicking your purple cow’s ass because it is useful without being all that different, and it’s in front of the right people at the right time.
Marketing isn’t really about trying to be exceptional. It is about understanding how your product or service will improve someone else’s life experience. The exceptional part comes later. Is that crappy black umbrella you bought in the middle of a rain storm in New York City for $30 really that exceptional initially? No. It’s just what you needed when you needed it, so you paid way too much for it. If I sell incredibly sturdy and beautifully designed umbrellas and decide to sell them in Bibi, Arkanasas, I doubt I could get $30 for them despite their being exceptional.
Maybe this case is a matter of semantics, but hey, isn’t that what writing a book actually is?