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Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

7 mins
book summary seth-godin business
Shawn L
Builds stuff minimally
Table of Contents

Why You Need the Purple Cow

Being first in pain relievers was an even better idea. Alas, they’re both taken.

Most people can’t buy your product. Either they don’t have the money, they don’t have the time, or they don’t want it.

The old rule was this: Create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing.

The new rule is: Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.

The value of a group isn’t related to its size. A group’s value is related to its influence. The early adopters heavily influence the rest of the curve, so persuading them is worth far more than wasting ad dollars trying to persuade anyone else.

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’s safer to be risky.

In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing.

We’ve been raised with a false belief: We mistakenly believe that criticism leads to failure.

Ideas That Spread wins.

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

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

Make a list of competitors who are not trying to be everything to everyone. Are they outperforming you? If you could pick one underserved niche to target (and to dominate), what would it be? Why not launch a product to compete with your own - a product that does nothing but appeal to this market?

Follow the Leader

What tactics does your firm use that involve following the leader? What if you abandoned them and did something very different instead? If you acknowledge that you’ll never catch up by being the same, make a list of ways you can catch up by being different.

Projections, Profits, and the Purple Cow

What would happen if you gave the marketing budget for your next three products to the designers? Could you afford a world-class architect/designer/sculptor/director/author?

Instead of investing in a dying product, take profits and reinvest them in building something new.

Mass Marketers Hate to Measure

Measurement means admitting what’s broken so you can fix it.

What could you measure? What would that cost? How fast could you get the results? If you can afford it, try it. “If you measure it, it will improve.”

The opposite of “Remarkable” is “very good.”

You must design a product that is remarkable enough to attract the early adopters - but is flexible enough and attractive enough that those adopters will have an easy time spreading the idea to the rest of the curve.

Logitech succeeds because management understands that they are in the fashion business.

Some questions to come up with something remarkable

How could you modify your product or service so that you’d show up on the next episode of Saturday Night Live or in a spoof of your industry’s trade journal?

Do you have the e-mail addresses of the 20 percent of your customer base that loves what you do? If not, start getting them. If you do, what could you make for these customers that would be super-special?

Could you make a collectible version of your product?

What would happen if you took one or two seasons off from the new-product grind and reintroduced wonderful classics instead? What sort of amazing thing could you offer in the first season you came back (with rested designers)?

In Search of Otaku

Consumers with otaku are the sneezers you seek.

Dutch Boy realized that people don’t buy paint; they buy painted walls, and the can makes the painting process much easier.

Where does your product end and marketing hype begin? The Dutch Boy can is clearly product, not hype. Can you redefine what you sell in a similar way?

Krispy Kreme is obsessed with dominating the donut conversation. They rush to make it easy for everyone to stumble onto the product.

Find the market niche first, and then make the remarkable product - not the other way around.

The Process and the Plan

The system is pretty simple: Go for the edges.

It’s not the tactics or the plan that joins the Purple Cow products together. It’s the process organizations use to discover (intentionally or accidentally) the fringes that make their products remarkable.

Can you create a culture of aggressively prototyping new products and policies?

The Power of a Slogan

A slogan that accurately conveys the essence of your Purple Cow is a script.

Sell What People Are Buying (and Talking About!)

It’s a lot easier to sell something that people are already in the mood to buy.

The Problem with Compromise

If someone in your organization is charged with creating a new Purple Cow, leave them alone! Don’t use internal reviews and usability testing to figure out if the new product is as good as what you’ve got now. Instead, pick the right maverick and get out of the way.

The Magic Cycle of the Cow

  1. Get permission from people you impressed the first time. Get permission to alert them the next time you might have another Cow.

  2. Work with the sneezers in that audience to make it easier for them to help your idea cross the chasm. Give them the tools (and the story) they’ll need to sell.

  3. Once you’ve crossed the line from remarkable to profitable business, let a different team milk it. Productize your services, servicize your products, let a thousand variations bloom.

  4. Reinvest. Do it again. With a vengeance. Launch another Purple Cow.

What It Means to Be a Marketer Today

Turns out that the CEO of JetBlue made one critical decision on day one: He got the head of Marketing involved in product design and training as well.

Marketers No Longer: Now We’re Designers

Make a list of all the remarkable products in your industry. Who made them? How did they happen? Model the behavior (not mimic the product) and you’re more than halfway to making your own.

Passionate people makes remarkable things

That’s how Starbucks was built.

That’s how a doctor can be remarkable.

What would happen if you told the truth?

McDonald in France released a report to advice people not to eat fast food more than twice a week. But that didn’t hurt them.

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.

The Problem with Cheap

Cheap is a lazy way out of the battle for the Purple Cow.

When the Cow Looks for a Job

The secret doesn’t lie in the job-seeking technique. It has to do with what these people do when they’re not looking for a job.

Is It About Passion?

You don’t need passion to create a Purple Cow.

Nor do you need an awful lot of creativity. What you need is the insight to realize that you have no other choice but to grow your business or launch your product with Purple Cow thinking.

It’s not about being weird. It’s about being irresistible to a tiny group of easily reached sneezers with otaku.


Explore the limits.

What if you’re the cheapest, the fastest, the slowest, the hottest, the coldest, the easiest, the most efficient, the loudest, the most hated, the copycat, the outsider, the hardest, the oldest, the newest, the . . . most! If there’s a limit, you should (must) test it.

Salt Is Not Boring - Eight More Ways to Bring the Cow to Work

  1. Think of the smallest conceivable market, and describe a product that overwhelms it with its remark-ability.

  2. Copy. Not from your industry, but from any other industry.

  3. Build and user permission assets (emails).

  4. Find things that are “just not done”in your industry, and do them.

  5. Ask, “Why not?” Almost everything you don’t do has no good reason for it. Bonus!

  6. Your product is not more boring than salt. Come up with 10 ways to change the product.

  7. Outsource.

  8. Go one or two more than your competitors.