DEEP SUMMARY - Purple Cow - Seth Godin

Here are the key points from the excerpts:

  • The traditional 5 P's of marketing (product, price, promotion, positioning, etc) are no longer enough in today's world.

  • Companies now need to focus on creating "Purple Cows" - products/services that are truly remarkable, worth talking about, exceptional and new. Being boring is invisible.

  • Traditional TV advertising and mass marketing no longer works. Companies can't just slap on marketing at the end.

  • Today's consumers already have everything they need and want. They are too busy and marketing must be built into the product itself.

  • Word of mouth and reputation drove sales before advertising became big. Then advertising and mass media took over.

  • Now we are back to word of mouth and reputation mattering more than ads. The difference is it now spreads much faster digitally.

  • Marketing has fundamentally changed. Companies must innovate, stop just advertising, and build "Purple Cows" with marketing baked into the offering.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Traditional mass marketing tactics like TV advertising are becoming less effective as consumers are overwhelmed with choices and have less time and attention to devote to ads.

  • It is increasingly difficult for new products and brands to break through the clutter and gain awareness and trial from consumers.

  • Most consumers are not in the target audience for a given product - they may not have the money, time or desire to purchase it. Reaching the right consumers is a challenge.

  • The world has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Consumers have far more choices but less time to evaluate them. Their needs are largely satisfied, so marketers have focused more on wants.

  • Busy consumers ignore unwanted marketing messages. Loyal customers to existing brands are less likely to switch.

  • Even when you can reach consumers through permission-based channels like email, they are less likely to engage with the messages or take action.

  • The main challenge for marketers now is breaking through the clutter to connect with the right consumers when their attention is limited. Traditional mass marketing is no longer as effective.

    Here are the key points from the summary:

  • The TV-industrial complex was a symbiotic system where companies invested profits from TV ads into more TV ads, driving sales, distribution, and growth. This system allowed brands like Procter & Gamble to dominate categories through mass advertising.

  • The complex lasted about 50 years but is now hemorrhaging as consumers have become desensitized to interruptive advertising. Marketers are struggling to re-create the past success.

  • The old rule was to create average products and combine them with great marketing. The new rule is to create remarkable products that influential people seek out.

  • The original VW Beetle languished until brilliant ads made it profitable for over 15 years, showing the power of the TV-industrial complex. The new Beetle succeeded through word of mouth about its distinctive shape, not ads.

  • The complex allowed brands like Barbie, Prell, Honeywell, McDonald's, Marlboro, Cap'n Crunch etc. to thrive through mass advertising that is less effective today.

    Here are a few ideas for what Tide could do to create a Purple Cow and stand out from the competition:

  • Develop a new formula that dramatically outperforms on stain removal or whitening. Make it noticeably better than anything else on the market.

  • Create a new packaging design that is radically different and highly noticeable on shelves. Experiment with shapes, materials, colors, etc.

  • Partner with washing machine manufacturers to develop smart dispensers that perfectly measure and dispense the right amount of Tide for each load.

  • Launch a subscription service that automatically delivers Tide refills on a schedule. Include free shipping and discounts.

  • Develop an eco-friendly, plant-based formula that is gentler on the environment. Market it heavily as a greener choice.

  • Create a stylish, high-design laundry detergent focused on scent and aesthetics for fashion-focused consumers. Make laundry glamorous.

  • Invent a novel new delivery method like single-use detergent sheets or pods that simplify laundry.

The key is to come up with an innovation that is both useful and highly visible to consumers. Something distinctive that makes shoppers take notice when walking down the laundry aisle. It needs to stand out as new and exciting compared to the sea of similar-looking detergent bottles.

Here are the key points:

  • Successful new products follow a pattern: they are first purchased by innovators, then early adopters, then the early and late majority. The majority of consumers ignore new products until peers have adopted them.

  • You must design products that appeal to early adopters, as they are most open to new ideas. Make it easy for early adopters to spread the idea to the rest of the curve.

  • Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed. Identify the "sneezers" or influencers in your market niche and get them excited about your idea.

  • It's a mistake to think viral marketing happens automatically. Successful products are engineered from the start to be virus-worthy - designed to cross the chasm and tip. Viral marketing must be built into the product concept.

  • Don't try to appeal to everybody. Target a niche market first where your idea can spread quickly among early adopters and sneezers before diffusing more widely.

    Here are the key points:

  • Not all customers are equally valuable. Some customers, like the 10% of heavy online banking users for the bank, are far more profitable than others.

  • It's tempting to focus marketing efforts on the largest segments in the middle of the adoption curve. But the most innovative early adopters on the left side and the late majority on the right can often be more profitable.

  • Differentiate your customers. Identify the most profitable and influential groups. Develop products and marketing tailored specifically for those high-value segments. Don't treat all customers the same.

  • The bank example shows focusing on innovative early adopters allowed them to capture 70% of deposits. Catering to the early adopters can attract even more profitable customers over time.

  • Leave the least profitable segments to competitors. Specialize on the slices of the market that are most valuable to you.

    Here are the key points:

  • Being "purple" (remarkable) is effective for standing out, but rare because people are afraid of criticism.

  • We learn to avoid standing out and risk failure from an early age in school. But blending in leads to invisibility.

  • You face a choice between playing it safe and being invisible, or taking a chance at greatness and uniqueness.

  • People mistakenly believe criticism leads to failure. But the only way to be remarkable is to invite criticism.

  • Don't equate yourself with the project. Criticism of the project is not criticism of you.

  • Take the risk to stand out, be criticized, and be remarkable. This is the only way to cut through the clutter.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Boring business strategies are risky because they make it easy for competitors to copy you and erode your market share. Being remarkable and pioneering new ideas is less risky in the long run.

  • It's better to lead and break new ground rather than just follow what industry leaders are doing. Following carries the risk that if the leader falters, you will too.

  • The Aeron chair example shows how Herman Miller took a risk by creating a very different and expensive office chair. But it stood out and got people's attention and became a huge success.

  • The lesson is that playing it safe is often the riskiest strategy over time. You need to be willing to try new things, even if they draw criticism. This can lead to innovations that set you apart.

    Here is a summary of the key points in the excerpt from Purple Cow by Seth Godin:

  • Mass marketing demands mass products, which leads to a dangerous catch-22. Mass marketed products are made to appeal to the broadest audience possible, making them boring and unlikely to capture attention.

  • Mass marketing also requires huge budgets upfront. This doesn't allow time for products to spread through word-of-mouth. Products often fail before reaching the masses.

  • Mass marketers avoid measuring results, which prevents improving products. In contrast, direct marketers constantly measure and optimize.

  • Winners in the world of the Purple Cow are smaller, nimble companies not wedded to mass marketing. Losers are giant brands addicted to mass marketing and unable to be remarkable.

  • Successful Purple Cow companies like Logitech and Lionel Poilane's bakery create remarkable products worth talking about. They gain attention and spread through word-of-mouth.

  • The key lessons are to make remarkable products, measure results, and optimize based on what works. Avoid bland mass-marketed products that fail to gain attention.

    Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Successful companies often create a "Purple Cow" - something truly remarkable and innovative that captures attention. But they then often fail to reinvent themselves, coasting on past success while becoming boring.

  • Being remarkable brings huge benefits like prestige, power, satisfaction, and financial rewards. But it also requires taking risks and facing potential failure.

  • The opposite of remarkable is not bad, but merely "very good." Very good is forgettable, while remarkable ideas spread.

  • Companies should milk their Purple Cow for profits, but also work to create the next one when those benefits fade.

  • On Wall Street, companies that created a Purple Cow and proved it were more likely to have successful IPOs during the dot-com boom. But most then took profits rather than reinvesting in more innovation.

  • The essence is that companies and people need to take risks to create innovative Purple Cows. But they also need to continuously reinvent themselves rather than coasting on old success. Remarkable ideas bring rewards, but they fade without continuous innovation.

    Here is a summary of the key points about innovation at the United States Postal Service:

  • The USPS has a very conservative, change-resistant audience of big customers and individual mailers.

  • Big direct marketing customers don't want the system to change because they've optimized for the current system. Individuals also have little desire to change their mailing habits.

  • Most new initiatives from the USPS are ignored or met with disdain, as their audience resists change.

  • The USPS faces challenges in innovating due to this conservative audience. Big innovations are likely to face resistance.

  • Smaller innovations may be more likely to be accepted. The USPS needs to balance major changes with incremental improvements that appeal to their change-resistant core audience.

The main point is that the conservative audience of the USPS makes it difficult for them to innovate successfully, especially with big changes. Smaller innovations may be more likely to take hold.

Here are a few key points on creating a Purple Cow:

  • There is no foolproof formula or plan. The Purple Cow is remarkable in just the right way - it can't be replicated easily.

  • The process involves pushing the edges and boundaries to see where you can innovate and stand out. Evaluate all the P's - product, pricing, promotion, etc. - to understand the landscape and see where you can stretch.

  • Identify the extremes, but balance creativity with practicality. Could you offer your services for free? Maybe, but is it financially sustainable? JetBlue balanced creativity and profitability.

  • Don't get stuck looking backwards. Learn from successful Purple Cows, but create something new and fresh.

  • Involve your team in brainstorming edges and ideas. Collaboration expands possibilities.

  • Focus on identifying the market niche first, then create the remarkable product for them.

  • The shared trait of Purple Cow companies is the process of questioning assumptions and taking smart risks to find breakthroughs. There is no single tactic or plan, but a commitment to creativity, edge and innovation.

The key is having a systematic process to push boundaries and ideate, while grounding innovations in business viability. With the right process, your team can increase the odds of finding the next Purple Cow.

Here is a summary of the key points about creating a Purple Cow:

  • A Purple Cow is something remarkable, worth talking about and remarkable in a core attribute. In a crowded marketplace, you need to stand out in order to get noticed.

  • To create a Purple Cow, you need to be extreme on some dimension that is important to your customers. Compromise will only diminish your chances of success. Take risks and be willing to polarize some people.

  • Your Purple Cow should solve a problem or fulfill a need for your target audience. Figure out who is buying and what they need, then provide a remarkable solution.

  • Once you've created something extreme and remarkable, make it easy for people to talk about. Have a clear, consistent message and make your product easy to recommend.

  • Don't rely on internal reviews and committees to design your Purple Cow. Empower mavericks and innovators to take risks. The market leaders are often too focused on compromise.

  • Be willing to keep evolving your Purple Cow over time as it becomes less remarkable. Understand the natural life cycle and keep reinventing to stay remarkable.

    Here are a few key points summarizing the passage:

  • Remarkable products often come from passionate people with deep expertise/obsession for that product - "otakus". Their passion allows them to intuitively know what's remarkable.

  • If you don't have that natural obsession, you can still create remarkable products by learning to project and put yourself in the shoes of your target audience who does care deeply. Empathize with them to understand what they would want.

  • Flexibility comes from learning to project beyond just your own interests, allowing you to create remarkable products for a wider variety of audiences.

  • Gut instinct and intuition from your own obsession has limits. Projection gives you more options to identify what's remarkable for audiences other than yourself.

  • Making remarkable products for niche audiences you belong to can work in some cases. But developing skill at projection is more profitable long-term for flexibility to make remarkable things for many audiences.

The key is that remarkable originates from intuition and passion, whether your own innate obsession or projected understanding of others' interests. But pure projection gives you more options to identify the seeds of a remarkable product or experience.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • The traditional marketing and advertising model that has worked in the past is no longer as effective for many companies. As the marketplace gets more crowded, simply doing more ads and promotions is not cutting through the noise.

  • To stand out, companies need to create something truly remarkable - a "Purple Cow" product or service that gets people talking. Something surprising, extraordinary, even outrageous. Safe, ordinary products are easily forgotten.

  • Rather than relying just on gut instinct, companies should take a scientific approach to creating buzz. Rapidly prototype new ideas, launch them, measure the response, learn, and repeat.

  • The whole organization, not just marketing, needs to adopt this mindset of constantly creating remarkable new value. Engineers, designers, leadership all play a role.

  • Big established companies will face inertia and resistance to this approach, as they are invested in the status quo. But they need to evolve to changing market dynamics.

  • "Remarkable" does not have to mean expensive. But "cheap" alone is often not a sustainable strategy unless you can radically redefine costs/pricing like Walmart.

  • The goal is to create something truly worth talking about, not just outrageous for the sake of it. Stand out by providing genuine value and insight to the audience.

    Here are the key points I gathered from the case study:

  • Stew Leonard started an ordinary dairy store in Connecticut. He then embraced the "Purple Cow" approach by adding unique and remarkable elements like a petting zoo, excellent customer service, unusual products, robotic cows, etc.

  • The store became hugely popular due to its purpleness. Stew expanded it over 10 times and it became renowned nationally.

  • The author used to take all his new employees on a 1 hour drive to see Stew Leonard's as an example of outstanding service and showmanship.

  • That was 10 years ago. Today, Stew Leonard's has multiple locations, including one near the author. But he never goes there anymore.

  • The main takeaway is that even remarkably purple cows can lose their luster over time. As competition copies and incorporates the purple elements, what was once unique and extraordinary becomes ordinary. Companies have to continually reinvent themselves and create new purpleness to stay remarkable. Stew Leonard's initially created a Purple Cow, but may not have kept up the pace of innovation to remain truly remarkable.

    Here are the key points from the brands list:

  • 70 of the top 100 brands were built over 25 years ago when advertising was easier and cheaper. These brands maintain their lead now, blocking newcomers.

  • Of the remaining 30 newer brands, about half were built through word of mouth rather than advertising (HP, Oracle, Nintendo, etc).

  • Only 15 brands remain that didn't rely primarily on word of mouth. Some used market power, some used remarkable advertising. Only a handful (Compaq, Dell, Nike, Gap, MTV, AOL) built brands the old-fashioned way with heavy advertising.

  • Just 6% of the most valuable brands used the now-obsolete strategy of constantly reminding people about their ordinary product.

  • The big question is - do you want to grow? If so, you need to embrace the Purple Cow concept, because traditional advertising strategies don't work as well anymore. You need to create something remarkable that people will talk about.

The key insight is that advertising alone is no longer sufficient to build strong brands in today's crowded marketplace. You need remarkable products and experiences that prompt word of mouth. The Purple Cow represents this shift.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • There are many ways to create a remarkable product by combining different attributes in new ways. Some examples given: Craftsman tools are remarkable for their durability, Google for its simplicity, Enterprise Rent-A-Car for picking customers up, Bloomberg terminals for their customized functionality.

  • Other examples: Four Seasons providing personalized service, LL Bean's lifetime guarantee, custom expensive motorcycles, the Hummer's ability to annoy and get attention, niche stores like Just Bulbs and Just Shades, pet frogs, Volvo's safety.

  • Making news through events like the Cannes Film Festival can make a product remarkable.

  • Eliminating the CD long box was an easy environmental fix that got attention.

  • Complexity and craftsmanship in watches creates remarkability.

  • Pushing boundaries of taste like Buddy Hackett and John Waters gets attention.

  • The key is finding unexplored combinations of attributes that create something remarkable and new. Every product should go through this analysis.

    Here are the key points:

  • Remarkable products or services get talked about and spread through word of mouth. John Waters' early weird movies developed a cult following this way.

  • Making part of your offering more difficult or extreme can make it more remarkable and get people talking. For example, restaurants offering huge steaks for free if finished, loud car stereos, very difficult ski slopes.

  • Specializing and being the absolute best at one niche makes you worth seeking out and talking about. Like a lawyer who only handles one type of case.

  • Risk avoidance is remarkableness. Products that dramatically reduce risks get attention.

  • Physical appearance of staff can be leveraged to be remarkable. Beautiful art gallery staff, for example.

  • Exceptional service from caring providers like doctors is worth talking about.

  • Don't just copy the competition, like Walmart realizing it couldn't out-Amazon Amazon. Go to where the competition is not.

  • Bad experiences with annoyances like the DMV get talked about. Consider investing in nice people.

  • Some entrepreneurs succeed in dying industries like music by being remarkable and focusing on indie musicians.

    Here are the key points:

  • New musicians and customers are embracing innovative music distribution companies like, Oasis CD Duplication, and Airshow Mastering that offer more customized services compared to the slow-moving major music labels.

  • Companies like these thrive by targeting a niche audience and offering something remarkable and distinct, rather than trying to appeal to a mass market.

  • Examples are given of restaurants and other businesses that succeed by intentionally breaking conventions or industry norms to stand out, such as Brock's Restaurant's no sharing policy.

  • The author argues that almost any boring product like salt can be made remarkable by rethinking it for a narrow target audience. He gives suggestions for bringing "purple cows" to any business, like outsourcing production or finding things that are taboo in your industry and doing them.

The main ideas are that targeting a niche and offering something distinct is more effective today than appealing to the masses, and any product can stand out with creative rethinking. Companies like CDBaby thrive by breaking industry norms and conventions.

Here is a summary of the key points and companies mentioned in the book Purple Cow by Seth Godin:

Main Ideas:

  • In a world full of boring, be remarkable. Create something extraordinary that people will talk about. This "Purple Cow" will allow you to stand out from the competition.

  • Safe is risky. Playing it safe means you'll blend in with everyone else. Take smart risks instead.

  • Marketing is no longer about ads and interrupts. It's about design and ideas that spread. Create remarkable products that people choose to engage with.

  • Very good is bad. Mediocre products don't get attention. Make something excellent that excites people.

Companies Mentioned:

Starbucks, Yahoo!, Yamaha, Stew Leonard's, Sun Microsystems, Sweet Mama Jamma's Mojo Juice, Tampax, Target, Zara, Zespri, Silk

Key Points:

  • Starbucks transformed mundane coffee into an experience through remarkable store design.

  • Yahoo! became popular by making search fun and using human editors.

  • Yamaha reinvented the piano with remarkable design.

  • Stew Leonard's drew crowds with its refreshing grocery store experience.

  • Zara finds success by rapidly creating cutting-edge fast fashion.

  • Silk grew by disrupting the milk category with its soy milk in familiar milk cartons.

In summary, the book argues that in a crowded marketplace, you must create something extraordinary and buzzworthy to stand out and succeed. Remarkability is required, not optional.

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Literary Insights by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!