The Purple Cow, Practical or Irrelevant?

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Purple Cows?

If you know anything about sales or marketing, then I’m sure you have heard of the mythical “Purple Cow.” For those of you who have not heard of this beast, it is a metaphor for making your product or service stand out from the rest and be unique. Seth Godin, the creator of this metaphor and the author of the book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, goes into great detail about how and why you should transform your product in order to make it unique to your customers. While it has many great points, it does miss the mark in a few very important areas, which we’ll cover right now.

Oversimplifying the Process

Looking at a product or service and thinking that as long as you make it unique it will sell is the first step to failure. The Purple Cow process is a great first step to getting your brand out there and to set it apart from the competition, but we cannot forget that the overall goal is sales. Keeping up with what your customers want is key. Think of it this way, a Purple Cow seems very cool, unique, and special, but would you want to eat the meat from that cow? Or drink its milk? I didn’t think so. Let your cow change colors from time to time, or change the animal all together. The point is, adapt and overcome when it comes to your product or service.

“We’re Going Streaking!”

“Being noticed is not the same as being remarkable,” Godin wrote in The Guardian four years after his book release. “Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won’t accomplish as much.”

Godin is absolutely right, and its something that he really should have included in his book. Many mistake being noticed as being great advertisements and branding. But we can all learn our lessons from the United Colors of Benetton Clothing line advertisement campaign. Shock and awe was their tactic, which was quite the switch from their color filled clothing adverts. Pictures of people missing limbs, or HIV Positive people were just the two of many shocking pictures they used, and all for a clothing ad. Many of the issues were those that were very large and hot-button in the 90’s, and they thought getting noticed was the same as being remarkable. As you may think, the advert campaign did not last very long and had a negative effect on their sales overall.

Instead, look at it this way; don’t be noticed, be useful. Being there for your customers and helpful to their overall needs is going to benefit your brand and image in the long run. Being useful will get you noticed, and that is the best way to keep your customers.

Adapt and Overcome

As I mentioned above, adapting and overcoming your obstacles is one of the best ways to stay above your competitors. Godin recognizes that there is a problem with his Purple Cow approach as well when it comes to this. After awhile, there are going to be hundreds of Purple Cows, all just like yours. So, how do you keep your Purple Cow special?

Innovation and hard work, along with a lot of elbow grease. If you apply these things to your idea, product, or service, you can keep your cow more purple than the rest of the herd.


Overall, as long as you apply all the other things you have learned to the Purple Cow concept, you can succeed in today’s market. Knowing your customers, be useful to them, and give them what they want, that’s what it takes. So be the cow that produces the best milk and has the loudest moo, and maybe be able to turn the color purple once in awhile, just to keep them on their toes.


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