Purple Cow by Seth Godin [Book Summary – Review]

What do you think you will notice when you see cows on a meadow? You will likely see black-white color combinations everywhere and may also notice some brown spots on cows with some luck. They will not likely be what will catch your eye, though.

However, were you to see a Purple Cow, despite the low chance, would it not catch your eye? Surely, it would since this would be an extraordinary phenomenon. 

All companies can take a lesson from this example. When a company manufactures something following the black-white tradition, it should not expect to see people forming long queues for its product; rather, it has to focus on manufacturing the extraordinary product, which is the Purple Cow.

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Chapter 1 – Advertisements are getting less effective as there are too many of them.

If you have observed, you can see the immense transformation that is occurring in the marketing dynamics.

Previously, when you flicked through channels and looked at newspapers, rarely would an advertisement catch your glimpse. Since they seldom appeared on TVs and newspapers, advertised products were perceived as reliable.

But today companies publicize numerous products through numerous means, thus the buyers are overcome with too much advertising, which made getting them to become aware of the product nearly out of question.

The reason for that is that everybody has a hectic life and does not have enough time to take notice of the whole world of advertisements. Seth Gidon recounts one instance: One day, he put a question for the people at the hotel he was crushing in. He wanted them to name two companies that advertised on an entire page. None of them, who read the newspaper could even name just two.

The buyers do not heed what advertisements there are unless the advertisements satisfy their specific demand. At the end of the day, one would not pay attention to automobile advertisements if one does not want to buy one.

This signifies that conventional advertising used on the media loses its success over buyers.

Consider you are publicizing your product on a TV channel. It will reach a great many people but the advertisement will only draw the attention of a small portion of viewers who are interested in your product. Even a smaller portion of them will really purchase your product.


Let’s say you want to create a new product of pain-killers. The problem follows from the fact that there are plenty of pain-killer medicaments already on the market, which indicates there are three impediments waiting for you.

The first task is to detect the buyers in need of pain-killers. Upon detecting them, the second is to see which of them are discontent with the products they are using. Lastly, find those who are truly interested in what you are talking about and want to purchase your product.

 Finding the buyers you aim to get to and advertising what you manufacture have been transforming into a harder challenge more and more due to new tendencies.

Chapter 2 – The word ‘’exceptional’’ defines a product or a business that attracts attention in the modern world.

The dynamics of advertising has been transforming, a phenomenon we discussed in the preceding chapter.

In retrospect, we can separate the past of advertising into three noticeable timeframes: before, during, and after advertising. We’ll define them below.

Before Advertising: In this type of advertising, people talked about products with each other and gave advice to one another about products. So, they advertised by employing word-of-mouth. To make it more concrete, when people mention a vegetable stand as the best in the town, people flock there.

During Advertising: This is the period when you gave more advertisements, you made more money. Companies would advertise their products to make more money from sales and in return, they would expend the profit on more and more advertisements.

After Advertising: This is the period in which we live. This period is identical to the Before Advertising period in which word-of-mouth way was the main instrument of advertising. The difference is social media instruments such as Twitter and Facebook which enable the promotion of a product through word-of-mouth to circulate faster than ever.

In this period of great abundance and varieties of products, it is not easy to fulfill the buyers’ demands – to make the buyers take notice of your product, you have to be exceptional.

In order to make your product and business appear striking and distinct, you have to turn it into a Purple Cow, a product with distinct and salient qualities. This type of marketing is denominated by remarkable marketing.

Volkswagen’s new series Beetle is such an example of a Purple Cow. The original model of Beetle had been well-liked by many and been a commercial success for more than fifteen years. The expectancy was that it would be difficult to bring it back into the market.

However, it proved to be the other way around and was quite successful commercially. Its striking colors and idiosyncratic form made it more noticeable than other cars in the cities. The opinions about the car were eminently positive and through word-of-mouth, their popularity increased even more 

Chapter 3 – In this period, a safer strategy is to venture into risks rather than eschewing them completely

You must have surely noticed a great many exceptional products and businesses; therefore, you should be familiar with what different possible means can help accomplish it.

The majority of companies are ill-disposed to adopting novel plans for reaching exceptionality since the idea of ‘’new’’ frightens them.

If you want achievements, then you have to solve the issue of fear. Otherwise, your product will not be noticeable in the modern market and be an invisible one in the crowded market as the market today will not accept any dull products.

Buick is one example. These cars have been dull for years because of the manufacturer’s choice of eschewing risk, which is a safer strategy for them.

Thinking about the Andrew Weil example will help you get a grasp of what it means to stand out no matter what your department is. He studied at the Harvard Medical School, where the majority of students aimed to be the best medical practitioner. However, he undertook a different journey than his friends: by bringing conventional and alternative medicine together, the latter of which was disproved, he took exception to the medical establishment. Thanks to his bravery, many people recuperated and were treated in his health centers and through his prescriptions. 

There is also the strategy of ‘’follow the leader’’, which betokens the imitation of leader actions. Though widespread, this strategy is not effective.

The reason behind it is that those leaders managed to become successful by venturing into risks and achieving remarkable. If you emulate them, you will not reach the same level of exceptionality.

Since their market will transform into something different eventually, companies that prefer ‘’follow the leader’’ strategy will not survive the long-term. They will have nowhere to escape or no one to emulate when they face a totally new phenomenon.

The music industry would make a good example. For many years, record companies imitated each other by producing very alike sounds and having similar covers. With the advent of the development in technology that helped online music stores to proliferate, record companies had no idea as to what to do about it since they lacked the skills necessary for tackling this matter.

Chapter 4 – Concentrate on the buyers with a high probability of trying new things and disseminating information

Now that you have realized what is necessary is an exceptional product. How will you make everybody know, though, when you launch a new brand?

Essentially, what you should keep in mind is that your brand will probably appeal to five cliques of people. So, figure out your strategy on the basis of this information.

The first group consists of those people keen to experience something different and who like being in the vanguard. They are called innovators.

Then come those who can quickly adjust themselves to new brands. They are called early adopters and curious about novelties.

Early adopters are followed by those who value the practicality more and who utilize the brands which have already become popular among other people. Making up most of the consumer base, these people are categorized as early and late majorities.

Our final group is those who are unwilling to change to a new product and they will not experience something different unless they certainly are required to do so.

Considering conventional advertising knowledge, your aim should initially be toward the early and late majorities since they make up the biggest portion among others. You would err, though, in choosing them as your initial target since they will not want to use until they are common.

Because it is highly probable for them to dig out and learn about new brands and they are more likely to spread the word about your product, you should aim for early adopters.

So, you should make plans for your product in such a way that it should catch early adopters’ eyes and make them promote the new product through word-of-mouth.

For instance, think about digital cameras. They are easier and more inexpensive when compared with conventional ones. What route should one take for advertising one’s product?

Initially, one should turn one’s attention to people who closely follow technological development and to those who work professionally as photographers since they are the early adopters in this context. This indicates the spread of one’s products among other people through these early adopters who are aware of the value of one’s product. They attract or you consumers from different groups.

Putting questions to yourself such as ‘’What can get other people to buzz around the product without much effort?’’ or ‘’Does the group I targeted converse with regard to my product?’’ will help you comprehend what is it that pushes people to buzz around your product. 

Chapter 5 – Marketing is not about merely putting your product on sale, but also about creating it.

A question for you: What does marketing require?

According to conventional thinking, marketing was just for the promotion of a product following its launch. This is the very definition of advertising. Marketing is much more than this.

Marketing also includes the act of creating the product. The brands that have achieved success are built within the first day of the production process, which makes it possible for products to be designed, manufactured, valued, and sold accordingly as it enables them to pay heed to the market opinions in order to make people spread the word about the product.

Consider the airline company JetBlue. Its CEO contacted its manager of the marketing department to take part in the planning part of the product and in training staff members.

In addition, marketing requires you to find a distinctive lead for your product so that your product can easily differ from those belonging to other rivals.

In order to detect that distinctive advantage, you have to experiment with many different ones. When making comparisons, be heedful of in what ways your product diverges from others’ products, such as in value and in advertising.

When choosing your marketing strategy, you should remember that it is all about your actual product and you need a ‘’slogan’’, which should be straightforward and uncomplicated to communicate the principal idea of your product. 

In the meantime, the Pantheon in Rome, despite its splendor and historical importance, can attract merely as much as one percent of the tourist that annually visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa due to the absence of a slogan.

For example, the jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co.’s products arrive at you in their famous blue box, which is an excellent slogan and does not include any words. The blue box creates a sense of style and excellence; whenever somebody receives it as a present from some other people, the product is advertised through word-of-mouth by these people.

Chapter 6 – Advertise for people in need of services to tackle their issues, and calculate the effectiveness of that advertising.

You must have doubtlessly already presumed that most promotions are fruitless: The content of advertisements either does not attract the people viewing them or these people do not belong to early adopters clique, which is the group enthusiastic about novelties and most willing to tell about the product to others.

Now, you may be wondering what was different with these promotions that were successful and how we can get to know that ours will work out well too.

The point here is to know to whom you will be advertising. 

It follows from the fact that there are copious advertisements today and it is the consumers who will decide of whom to take notice unlike the past when advertisers were the ones who decided which group to reach. 

So people will be searching for a new product, your product, to tackle the issues they are facing and your promotion has to grab their attention. And how to manage to do that? By advertising wherever your target group will search for a solution.

Google Ads is a good example. Since consumers enter words that demonstrate their problem. In return, Google Ads filters advertisements on the basis of word choice of users and show them the advertisements that may be helpful in solving their issues.

No matter through what means you publicize your brand, you have to calculate the efficacy of the marketing. Only by following this route can you get a grasp of what is beneficial and not, which will help you decide how you can take the best actions.

Consider Zara. The renowned fashion stores watch carefully what is the people’s views of the clothes in stores and worldwide and they change the products every month depending on the consumer choices.

Do not forget that what you can calculate is what you can enhance. The efficacy of your action is not enough on its own; you must never forget to give thought to the cost of calculating.

Chapter 7 – Several companies are afraid of being criticized, derided, and of the transformation that remarkability would yield.

Several companies think it is difficult to become remarkable due to their fears. We will look below what frightens them:

One thing they fear is criticism – remarkability brings criticism along with itself since you will be noticeable among many other companies.

The latest CTC Cadillac, for instance, has been broadly censured due to its unattractive appearance; yet, the sale numbers have been satisfactory and the buyers are very much contented with their products. Inventing the remarkable straightforward lays the ground for criticism – and there is no way of avoiding it.

Criticism, however, is not always a sign of non-success. Actually, when no one criticizes you, it indicates you are in your comfort zone, which is something you should fret about as this road will lead to non-success.

Another thing is the fear of acting unwittingly aggressive and appearing ludicrous if they act brave and courageous.

It is highly true that others may deride you since you are not the same as them. However, when others mock about your product, it may backfire and actually help your product’s promotion.

However, be careful not to aspire for aggressiveness or audacity wittingly because it does not always have to yield positive results. It would be even more terrible if a scandal breaks out as it may cause an antipathetic perception to circulate around when people negatively buzz around about the product, which is something undesirable for you.

The last but possibly the most important disquiet among companies when it comes to inventing a Purple Cow is that a thoroughgoing change in already-settled manufacturing vehicles would be necessary.

Ultimately, the moment you realize how you will become exceptional, you will have to do everything required to reach it, which necessitates a huge transformation.

The best example of someone who surmounted these fears is the electronic stores Best Buys’ CEO, Brad Anderson. Under his sway, the company underwent a huge transformation in its functioning to differ from its rivals; instead of putting on sale the things company wished to sell, the company based its product sales on the buyers’ wishes. This altogether switch brought about an immense transformation to the companies already-existing infrastructure

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin Book Review

Standard products are no longer acceptable today in the market where a plethora of alike products exists. Be exceptional or vanish. In order to be exceptional, you are compelled to venture out audaciously and to nevermind how others criticize you. Later, upon the promotion of your exceptional product through word-of-mouth, you will have to identify the group of people who are enthusiastic about experiencing something different and would avidly tell about your product.

Seeing that your company falls behind the chief actor in the sector, you should eschew imitating whichever route it is taking. 

Alternatively, turn on your computer and start listing what could be useful while you narrow the gulf between the chief actor. However, write down solely what would help you differ from that company.

If you work in the marketing sector, register for an educational program of product designer and vice versa.

Regardless of whether you are a marketer or a product designer, take time to step in the factory to comprehend the process of manufacture. To procure Purple Cows, you are entailed to create your product with having an already-established idea of marketing.

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