Purple Cow | Seth Godin

Author: Seth Godin
Author: Seth Godin

Main Theme: Transformation, Marketing
For People Who: Need inspiration to stand out in a bland world.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable is only my second Seth Godin book to read. Whether you think his books are like watching a beautiful sunset or driving by a bad car accident: you can’t help but look! Everything in this book could be summed up in one simple statement: if you’re not remarkable, you’re invisible. The whole point of the title is that cows are boring, we’ve all seen them. My two year old gets excited when she sees one, but eventually she’ll get bored with them. But a purple cow, now that is truly remarkable…for a little while. And that’s the point. What does your organization do to be remarkable? Seth is touted as a marketing guru and I believe he shows it in Purple Cow. The problem is that marketing rules are changing. It’s not about marketing to the crowd, but to a small niche of sneezers (an informed audience who influences others) who then spread the word. It’s not about remarkable advertising. It’s about creating remarkable products that market themselves. As a Christian pastor, I found this book to be interesting for the Church – you’ll see why in my conclusion.

 My goal in Purple Cow is to make it clear that it’s safer to be risky – to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about. –Purple Cow, pg. 24

Normally I give some personal takeaways from the book before launching into a brief summary, but because there are no chapters in Purple Cow, my takeaways will provide the summary. A book without chapters; I quite enjoyed it. It felt more conversational and more fluid as you moved through the book. I think you’ll like it!

Brief Summary

The New “P”

In the past marketers used things like “pricing, promotion, positioning, publicity, packaging…,” (the list goes on and on) to get a product to sell successfully. Today, there is a new P, Purple Cow. A Purple Cow is remarkable. It’s interesting. It’s something to marvel at. It’s captivating and it’s something to talk about. It is distinguished from the rest of the products on the market. Godin names off all the different kinds of pain relievers on the market (22 listed) and asks how you’d market a new pain reliever, even if it was better than everything out there?

Once you find people who buy pain relievers, then you need people who want to buy a new kind. After all, plenty of people want the “original” kind, the kind they grew up with. If someone has found a convenient, trusted, effective pain reliever, he’s probably not out there wasting time looking for a replacement. –Purple Cow, pg. 9

People want something that is going to solve their problems, even if they are problems they don’t know they have yet. We are so overwhelmed by ads and information that we ignore the vast majority of them. This is why mass marketing isn’t as effective as it was decades ago. The only way to be noticed, no matter what your organization does, is to be remarkable. To be exceptional. To put out something that’s risky and yet truly amazing.

If You’re Not Remarkable, You’re Invisible

As a Christian pastor in the Bible belt of America, I know there is practically a church on every corner. After a while, they all tend to blend together, sound alike, look alike, act alike, lead alike, preach alike – you get the idea. Plug your organization type into the equation and chances are you’ll notice the same thing. If your organization is not unique, if it is not remarkable, then it is invisible. Godin says, “Services that are worth talking about get talked about.” (pg. 33 – meaning ‘services’ that an organization provides) And when you are remarkable, don’t think that you will not receive criticism. People will disagree with you, think you’re crazy, believe you’re wrong, and will certainly have a problem with your Purple Cow – because you’re growing and they’re not; you thought of something they didn’t.

Criticism comes to those who stand out. –Purple Cow, pg. 45

If you’re not being criticized, you’re probably not doing anything worth doing. Safety is the true risk. Pulling back is what will cause you to fail.

Measure What You Value

Godin writes, “Measurement means admitting what’s broken so you can fix it.” (pg. 59) What is it you’re afraid to measure? Not only in your organization but in your personal life? When you take stock it brings into sharp focus exactly where you stand. Sometimes that scares folks. They would rather live in ignorance, slowly starving themselves to death, rather then face the cold hard truth that they aren’t preforming, growing, expanding as they ought to.

Remember, it’s not about being weird. It’s about being irresistible to a tiny group of easily reached sneezers with otaku (people with obsessive interest about something). Irresistible isn’t the same as ridiculous. Irresistible (for the right niche) is just remarkable. –Purple Cow, pg. 118


In short, Purple Cow delivers in a way that only a Seth Godin book can. He makes outrageous statements that leave me hanging, and then slowly chips away at any defense against it. Rather than putting all your creativity into marketing something that isn’t remarkable, put all your stock into creating a service that is irresistible to a smaller niche of sneezers who will then tell the world about your organization. Interestingly enough, as a Christian pastor, I realize that’s exactly what Jesus did. While he spoke to crowds, He spent specific time with a small niche of men and women, and they turned the world upside down.

Information and Personal Rating

General Information:

Personal Ratings (1-10)

  • Applicability: 7
  • Readability: 8
  • Originality: 9
  • Recommendation: Yes I would recommend. It’s easy to read and will certainly give you and your leadership team something to talk about. If you aren’t interested in doing something different…don’t bother. It’ll just make you mad.

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