TLDR; #1 – Are you a Purple Cow?

Are you too busy to keep up with business books? No problem. I’ve started a new series just for you – so you can get the gems from some great books in about as much time as it takes to drink a cup of coffee.

The goal of this series is to give you some fresh ideas and bite-sized info from some of the great books and articles I’ve been reading, and to spark some new ideas for you and your business. It’s called Too Long, Didn’t Read, or TLDR; for short – your quick route to great business and marketing ideas.

And with the goal of getting you a lot of info quickly, let’s dive in to Purple Cow, by Seth Godin. Seth is a long-time marketing guru and business executive, involved in the founding of Yoyodine, Squidoo, one-time VP of Direct Marketing for Yahoo, and author of over a dozen marketing books. You can find Purple Cow here on Amazon, or learn more about Seth on his website.

Are you Remarkable?

Why am I still talking about a 16 year old book? How can it possibly still be relevant now, over a decade and a half since its first publication? Because even now it’s spot on about what it means to be a brand and to differentiate yourself for a core audience. Many techniques and ideas in Purple Cow are core to my philosophy as a brand marketer and to Satellite Six.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin, first published in 2002, asks the core question: are you remarkable? Do you stand out in some meaningful way for your audience? If you and your competitors are all cows in a field – some might be nicer than others, some healthier, some stronger – but they’re still all cows. They all look about the same. A purple cow, though – now that is a cow that will get noticed.

Consumers are lost in a sea of choices – more and more everyday. The time to make a decision about those choices is shorter. As a result, consumers take mental shortcuts to tune out most marketing messages. Only those companies that stand out and connect with an audience are rewarded, while everyone else struggles in the back against the pack for scraps of market share.

1. The best brand is a remarkable experience

No amount of marketing can fix a broken product or service, so always be looking at your product or service from your audience’s point of view and fix any issues there first. A disconnect between expectation and reality can hasten a company’s demise, and no amount of marketing or branding can save that.
On the flip side, a great, novel brand experience excites and delights a core audience and further connects them with your brand.

2. Market Only to Sneezers (your most excited, influential, and engaged audience)

Want to grow a customer base? Focus your marketing only on those that look like your best customer, who are likely to tell others of their great experience. Passing interest just doesn’t cut it to get people off the fence. Your best opportunity is to attract those who look like your best customer to increase adoption of your brand.

3. Cheat by Changing the Rules

If you’re going to market, market on your true value and people will associate the brand name with that value and specific outcome. Want to find something online? Google. Have a cut that needs attention? Band-Aid. What value or values are you synonymous with? When you become synonymous with a core value or idea, your brand gets to cheat by the perception of direct association.

4. Stop following the leader and find your “EST”

There’s already an Apple. Don’t try to be Apple, or to mirror any other market leader, because there already is one. Audiences are smart, and they see when a brand is just trying to copy another. Instead, look for the gap to fill and become that. Look for what’s missing from their experience and make that part of your experience.

Dive deep for ways you might position yourself differently from everyone else by being the -EST at something: Biggest, fastest, cheapest, loudest, most efficient, and so on. Test the limits of your brand to see how far you can take one or two of these -ESTs.

5. Most importantly: Safe is NOT Safe. Safe is risky.

What’s working for another brand seems the safe play. After all, it’s working for them, right? In reality, a brand trying to be like everyone else and just “fit in” is the greatest risk of all to the long term health and engagement of your brand. If you don’t stand out for one reason or another, you’re always behind the market leader and playing catch up. You’re punished by getting dispassionate customers who look at you as one in a field of many instead of one that stands alone.

Bold brands who define who they are, who they are meant for, and what they stand for are rewarded in the market.

TLDR; Be Remarkable.

Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, a candid, to-the-point analysis of what makes the best brands tick is still relevant today, 16 years after publication. Though some of the references are dated, the philosophy is solid: Be the Purple Cow that stands out and gets noticed – or just be one of hundreds of normal cows, who do nothing extraordinary to signal choice to their audience.


For more TLDR; stay tuned – we’re planning at least one new TLDR; every month. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Did you like this article? Did it spark some ideas to take back to your organization? What are some of your favorite business books you’d like to see in an upcoming TLDR?

Thanks very much for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article, and all the best to your success!

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