Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey

The following book is part of our “Readers Choice”, selected by Weekly Book Scan visitors to be featured.

Using a traditional (a.k.a. boring) marketing strategy is one of the riskiest things you can do, as it threatens to make you invisible to the customers you need most to succeed. That’s the main thrust of Seth Godin’s classic Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable (Portfolio, 2002), a quick read of case studies and commentary on how to make your brand something everyone will be talking about. Godin shares lessons from innovators such as Krispy Kreme, Apple, and Starbucks as he inspires you to stop following the herd and find your own way to be remarkable.



Do you feel invisible and anonymous when prospecting? Then start searching for a “Purple Cow” you can bring to your business. Unlike boring brown cows, Purple Cows are products or services that have built-in remarkable elements that literally sell themselves. Here are some ideas from the book for making your company stand out from the crowd:

1. Sniff out the sneezers. Godin uses the term “sneezers” to describe people who are so excited about your services that they infect all those around them with information about you and what you have to offer. Spend all your energies pleasing this group and 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.” Do you have the e-mail addresses of the 20 percent of your customer base who loves what you do? If not, get them. And then concentrate on making this 20 percent happy.

2. Don’t play it safe. Trying to play it safe is riskier than innovation, Godin writes. Playing follow-the-leader in your industry makes you disappear into the crowd. Innovative companies, by definition, try tactics that competitors don’t use. For example, Herman Miller took a 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,” Godin 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? You’ll never catch up with your competitors by being the same, so make a list of ways you can succeed by being different, Godin writes.

3. Make your business cards stand out. “If you’re in an intangible business, your business card is a big part of what you sell,” Godin writes. So don’t let your business card become a brown cow — boring and indistinguishable from one another. 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 recommends creating a second business card for you to distribute that will make people talk.

4. Be a copy cat, kind of. Examine what works and what doesn’t by making a list of all the remarkable companies in your industry. Who made them? How did they happen? “Model the behavior (not mimic the product) and you’ll be more than halfway to making your own,” Godin writes. “Immerse yourself in fan magazines, trade shows, and design reviews.” Also, identify a competitor in your market. What are they known for? Once you identify their special trait, set out to outdo them in it.

5. Come to the rescue. Be a problem-solver for your customers. Identify a problem that you can solve and then promote the solution where those most likely to pass it along will be paying attention, Godin suggests. He points to Altoids’ successful campaign, which was one of the most profitable candy introductions in history. Altoids targeted young adults who were looking for something to pop in their mouths at work and while on-the-go. The company advertised in urban centers with high-end imagery and slogans, and packaged the candy in a small tin, perfect for sharing and “sneezing” the product to others, Godin writes.


“Remarkable marking is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service. Not slapping on marketing as a last-minute add-on, but understanding that if your offering itself isn’t remarkable, it’s invisible. …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’ thing 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.”


Seth Godin is an author of nine bestsellers, including Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends Into Customers, Unleashing the Ideavirus, and Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

More Posts - Website

  1. I’ve been trying to use the Purple Cow marketing strategy for a long time. However,I still not succeeful because I found out it is not easy for people to except changes.
    I will keep trying!!
    Heidi Toso

  2. Thinking way– outside the box, I wanted to create a video that markets a home but in an indirect way. The result is… ps and you will come home
    A mini video that has been written, directed, filmed, and produced by a builder and his agent in Nashville, TN as a means to market the builder’s latest project, a majestic American Foursquare located at 1742 Hillmont Drive, Nashville, TN. In the film, a young American Korean War veteran makes his long journey back home after serving his country in battle. He is reunited with his family and inherits all that is right and good in life- the love of his strong family, a special heirloom gift from his proud father, and knowing he is finally home. At the end, he returns the favor to his son, years later.


  3. Shirley E Carter

    Love the color of Purple
    Have an ELSIE COW sitting on a RED swing. She is hanging from the ceiling.
    Above my desk & computer.
    FOR A NEW CARD. Love It!!!
    Thanks a bunch.
    Shirley C.