One of the first things students learn from a marketing course are the 4 Ps–product, price, promotion, and placement. However, marketing expert Seth Godin says that people are missing the most important P of all: the Purple Cow.
Godin uses the metaphor of a cow to represent companies in the business world. Cows, after you’ve seen a couple, become boring. Go to any farm and you’ll see plenty of black and brown cows. After a while, people start to ignore and lose interest in cows because they all look alike.
Even if a farmer spent a massive amount of money on advertising to tell people he has cows on his farm, not many people would be interested in visiting because the majority of people have seen a cow before.
The same can be said for companies. Today there are more companies than ever before and the traditional method of marketing isn’t working anymore. Before, companies would simply invest advertising dollars into mass market channels such as print and television, and it would reach everyone.
However, today with the internet and mobile phones, everyone’s attention is divided. Godin argues that instead of companies pouring their money into advertising, it could be put to better use by using it to create more innovative products.
For example, if there is a purple cow on the farm, this is something new and exciting. The same can be said for businesses. Consumers in today’s world have more choices than ever before. This overwhelming amount of options means companies must have a remarkable and interesting product in order grab people’s attention and stand out from the competition.
Godin notes that launching Purple Cows can be risky, but big risks often lead to big payoffs. Small changes often go unnoticed by consumers.
Eventually, even the companies that produce a consistent stream of Purple Cows will have one that flops. Amazon became a Purple Cow when it became one of the first companies to offer free shipping for such a large selection of goods. Yet, when Amazon launched its Fire Phone, the product flopped.
Most companies as they grow, seek safety and aim to eliminate as much risk from their business as they can. A marketer in a company may be less inclined to try a radical idea if he knows that failure in the product will result in him being fired.
Yet, by playing it safe, they reduce their chances of creating a Purple Cow and thus increase their chances of being lost in the noise. Indeed, it’s an interesting paradox that companies and especially marketers should be aware of.
Godin writes that if you look at the market-leading companies today, you’ll notice that many of them owe their dominance to a Purple Cows they marketed years ago. This holds true for companies such as Apple which created the iPod–a unique product that the market and consumers have never seen before.
Throughout the book, Godin offers practical tips to ‘remarkabalize’ a company’s brand through innovation. He does this by providing a series of questions to the reader and examples of how even the most boring products, like salt, having managed to be innovative.
In today’s world, the only way to cut through the hyper-clutter of products and advertising is to create something new, unique and remarkable – like a purple cow.