The Purple Cow

Posted on: February 23, 2014

I’ve been subscribed to everything Seth Godin writes for years. His reach goes far beyond a few years of me reading blogs. Purple Cow is a book published in 2003 and the sheer mass of amazing content and life changing material Seth shared is frankly a little scary.

Seth Godin has had a profound affect on the way I think as a person, a marketer and someone who gives a shit.

I wrote down all my favorite quotes from Purple Cow that impacted me in some way or another and I think anyone who stumbles across it would find value. I suggest you read Seth’s blogs, books and everything else he does.


The post-consumption consumer is out of things to buy. We have what we need, we want very little, and we’re too busy to spend a lot of time researching something you’ve worked hard to create for us.

I believe we’ve reach the point where can now longer market directly to the masses.

Stop advertising and start innovating.

The best vegetable seller at the market had a reputation and her booth was always crowded.

A partnership with the right ad agency and the right banker meant you could drive a company to be almost as big as you could imagine.

… the power of our new networks allows remarkable ideas to diffuse through segments of the population at rocket speed.

The Pursuit of Wow, a visionary book that described why the only products with a future were those created by passionate people.

Companies win when they treat the attention of their prospects as an asset, not as a resource to be strip-mined and then abandoned.

This was a great America success story – invent a product everyone wants, advertise it to the masses, and make a lot of money. This strategy didn’t just work for pizza. It works for almost everything in your house, including aspirin.

The world has changed. There are far more choices, but there is less and less time to sort them out.

Almost everything we can realistically imagine that we has been invented.

Consumers are hard to reach because they ignore you.

The old rules don’t work so well any more. Marketing is dead. Long live marketing.

In 1962, a smart ad agency hired Jay Ward, creator of Bullwinkle, and asked him to make a commercial. He invented Cap’n Crunch and came back with an animated commercial. Then, and only after that was done, did the cereal company go about actually making cereal.

Advertising this stuff used to work. Really well.

The TV-industrial complex is hemorrhaging and most marketers don’t have a clue what to do about it.

The old rule was this: Create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing. The new rule is: Great remarkable products that right people seek out.

It’s like trying to drive by watching the rear view mirror. Sure, those things worked, but do they help us predict what will work tomorrow?

The reason it’s so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader because he did something remarkable, And that remarkable thing is now taken – it’s no longer remarkable when you do it.

It’s not just TV that’s broken.

What’s missing isn’t the ideas. It’s the will do execute them.

Instead of trying to use your technology and expertise to make a better product for your users’ standard behavior, experiment with inviting the users to change their behavior to ale the product work dramatically better.

First, these people are really good at ignoring you. They have problems that they find far more significant than the ones your product solves, and they’re just not willing to invest the time to listen to you. Second, they often don’t even listen to the innovators on the left part of the curve.

Don’t try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.

The way you break through to the mainstream is to target a niche instead of a huge market.

It is useless to advertise to anyone (except interested sneezers with influence).

The rest of the time, you need to be investing in the Purple Cow. Products, services and techniques so useful, interesting, outrageous, and note-worthy that the market will want to listen to what you have to say.

As consumers get better and better ignoring mass media, mass media stops working.

The Cow is so rare because people are afraid.

Nobody gets unanimous praise – ever. The best the timid can hope for is to go unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.

That’s when you started figuring out that the safe thing to do was fit in.

In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing.

You do not equal the project. Criticism of the project is NOT criticism of you.

The best design solves problems, but if you can weld that to the cool factor, then you have a home run.

Mass marketers hate to measure. Measurement means admitting what’s broken so you can fix it.

They crave more remarkable products. That’s what their customers want to buy.

As the world gets more turbulent, more and more people seek safety.

Very good is an everyday occurrence and hardly worth mentioning.

Smart businesses target markets where there’s already otaku.

The is marketing done right. Marketing where the marketer changes the product, not the ads.

In other words, find the market niche first, and then make the remarkable product – not the other way around.

Consumers with needs are the ones most likely to respond to your solutions.

Compromise is about standing down the rough edges to gain buy-in from other continuances.

You can’t build a fast-growing company around vanilla.

In almost every market, the boring slot is filled.

Fail and fail and fail again. Assume that what was remarkable last time won’t be remarkable this time.

Everything they do that adds value is marketing.

If a company is failing, it is the fault of the most senior management, and the problem is probably this: They’re running a company, not marketing a product.

Are you obsessed or just making a living?

Everyone who works at Patagonia is an outdoor nut.

I’m talking about very public releases of cheap prototypes.

Being scandalous might work on occasion, but it’s not a strategy: it’s desperation.

What would happen if you told the truth?

Remarkable people with remarkable careers seem to switch jobs with far less effort. Remarkable people often don’t even have a resume. The path to a lifetime of job security is to be remarkable.

Remember it’s not about being weird. It’s about being irresistible to a tiny group of easily reached sneezers with otaku. Irresistible isn’t the same as ridiculous. Irresistable (for the right niche) is just remarkable.

Top 50 companies in 2002: #2 Microsoft. #50 Apple

You have to go where the competition is NOT. The farther the better.