The Purple Cow

Kristin Donahue (Marketing Specialist, State Street Corporation, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 October 2004



Donahue, K. (2004), "The Purple Cow", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 435-435.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Seth Godin's The Purple Cow is an inspirational book that challenges all the rules of marketing. The foundation of Godin's ideas is based on this statement: “Something remarkable is worth talking about. Worths noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting. It's a Purple Cow. Boring stuff is invisible. It's a brown cow” (p. 3). Godin's unique conclusion is that more important than the product you sell is how you market it, which really makes sense. In this book, Godin brings a fresh perspective to the world of marketing. The old tricks are not working anymore, and Godin has some strong evidence that this is true. Instead of relying on the original Ps of marketing, Godin brings in a new P, the “Purple Cow”.

In a chapter entitled “The Death of the TV‐Industrial Complex,” Godin reveals his definition of “old” and “new” rules of marketing.

Old: Create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing.

New: Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.

He does a great job explaining what is working for many new companies by backing his ideas with real examples such as the success of Krispy Kreme donuts and the alternative rock band Pearl Jam. He also makes a strong argument about why the old rules worked for established companies like Coca‐Cola and Ford in the past and why they can't influence today's consumers. Although customers may be aware of your product, they now need to have a reason to use it. The world has too many ordinary products. Godin's goal is to make marketers understand that developing a product that is directed to a target consumer is the new game.

Godin also points out that new entrants must now work even harder to stay in the race. They need to continuously give consumers what they want instead of trying to convince buyers of what they need. Godin does a good job of explaining this through his comparison between Yahoo and Google. In this example, Google explains how their customer service is “obsessed with the e‐mail they get criticizing the service” (p. 123). By being aware of what their customers want, Google was able to understand that people go to their Web site because they like its simplicity. Unlike Yahoo, the user is not bombarded with tons of information. Because of this knowledge, Google is continuously aware of the number of words on their search engine's home page.

Godin does not claim to have all the answers in this book. Instead, he tries to influence the reader's way of thinking. “Remarkable isn't always about changing the biggest machine in your factory. It can be the way you answer the phone, launch a new brand, or price a revision to your software. Getting in the habit of doing the ‘unsafe’ things every time you have the opportunity is the best way to learn to project – you get practice at seeing what's working and what's not” (p. 105). This book encourages the reader to take that next step and think outside the box by being “unsafe.”

I found this book fun and easy to read. Godin has made his rules simple and easy to understand. His explanations are clear and his message is well thought out. Not only does he explain why something works today, but he continues on and looks at tomorrow. This book makes a lot of strong points that are very convincing. He makes the reader look at marketing from a whole new perspective and makes the reader think “remarkably!”

The book focuses on higher‐level management, but I do think that anyone who is interested in new age marketing can benefit from reading this book. His advice is relevant to anyone who wants to be successful. In the chapter “When a Cow looks for a Job” Godin explains how this book is applicable to furthering one's career. Godin puts it all together when he says, “In your career, even more than for a brand, being safe is risky. The path to lifetime job security is to be remarkable” (p. 111).

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