If You’re Going to Be a Cow, Be Purple

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable By Seth Godin (Portfolio, 2003) 145 pp., $19.95
Buy this book from Amazon.com

The traditional P’s that marketers have used for decades to get noticed—such as product, positioning, promotion, publicity, packaging, and pricing—are no longer enough to succeed, writes author Seth Godin in Purple Cow: How to Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable. To be successful, businesses need to add another P—the Purple Cow.

Godin uses the purple cow to symbolize the creative, innovative, and remarkable ideas necessary to differentiate a business from its competitors; brown cows are invisible and boring, but purple cows stand out from the herd and generate word-of-mouth buzz. It’s a silly image with serious implications. Purple cows, Godin writes, have built-in remarkable elements that sell themselves, rather than requiring companies to prop up an average product or service with advertising. The book includes case studies on how companies, from Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corp. to Google, have distinguished themselves from their competitors. A companion sequel, 99 Cows, features 99 examples of people, products, services, organizations, and projects that represent Godin’s purple-cow philosophy. This e-book is available at Amazon.com, and proceeds from the sale go to charity.

Purple Cow supplies a catalyst for innovation, but you have to come up with your own “big idea.” The book explains the qualities that make a service or product remarkable, and provides examples of how purple cows have driven other businesses to success, but you must make your own leap of imagination to apply these principles to your own business or career.

Godin is a best-selling author of Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends Into Customers, Unleashing the Ideavirus, and Survival Is Not Enough. He has started several successful companies and is a contributing editor at Fast Company magazine.

Tips for Real Estate Professionals

  • Please the sneezers, not the masses. Sneezers, according to Godin’s definition, are people who are so excited about your services that they infect all those around them (friends and family) with information about you and what you have to offer. They are the desirable demographic for your marketing, and you should spend all your energies pleasing this group. Godin recommends that you differentiate your customers, and find the group that’s the most profitable and the group “that’s most likely to sneeze.” Figure out ways that you can grow and reward this group. “Ignore the rest,” Godin writes. “Your ads (and your products!) shouldn’t cater to the masses. Your ads (and products) should cater to the customers you’d choose if you could choose your customers.” Do you have the e-mail addresses of the 20 percent of your customer base who loves what you do? If not, Godin suggests you go out and get them. And then concentrate on making this 20 percent deliriously happy.
  • Don’t flock, and don’t be safe. According to Godin, trying to play it safe is ultimately riskier than innovation. Playing follow-the-leader in your industry makes you disappear into the crowd. Innovative companies, by definition, try tactics that competitors don’t … or won’t. Herman Miller took a radical risk when the company introduced the $750 (gasp!) Aeron chair into the office furniture industry in 1994. “They launched a chair that looked different, worked differently, and cost a bunch,” the author writes. “It was a Purple Cow. Everyone who saw it wanted to sit in it, and everyone who sat in it wanted to talk about it.” What tactics does your company use that follow the leader? Godin suggests that you’ll never catch up with your competitors by being the same—instead make a list of ways you can succeed by being different.
  • Are your business cards brown cows? “If you’re in an intangible business, your business card is a big part of what you sell,” Godin writes. But most business cards are brown cows—boring and indistinguishable from one another. Imagine what a business card might look like if reinvented by Milton Glaser, a graphic designer who created the “I NY” logo. How can you make your card stand out? Godin cites the example of an ice cream store owner who placed a stack of large business cards on the counter that said, “If you have any comments at all about the store, please call me at home.” It listed the owner’s home telephone number. People who visited the store noticed and talked about it. Godin suggests that you go out and make a second business card that makes people talk.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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