Purple Cow
by Seth Godin

  • Marketing
  • Ashto = 8/10
  • Jonesy = 9/10
Purple Cow

Purple Cow – by Seth Godin

We love Seth Godin so it’s time to do another Seth book. The premise of Purple Cow is that the old way to build a business (making safe, average products and then marketing them by buying as much TV advertising you can afford) is no longer effective. Instead, we need to make remarkable products that customers will tell other people about. The idea is that a brown cow isn’t worth telling someone about, but a purple cow… that’s remarkable, that’s worth talking about.

‘Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable’


Grab a copy of the book here: https://www.bookdepository.com/Purple-Cow-Seth-Godin/9780141016405/?a_aid=adamsbooks


“Transform your business by being remarkable”


Grab a copy of the book here: https://www.bookdepository.com/Purple-Cow-Seth-Godin/9780141016405/?a_aid=adamsbooks


Purple Cow Summary

Driving through the countryside, you might marvel at the beautiful landscape and the farm animals that seem to be everywhere. A brown cow is exciting at first, especially when you’re from the city and haven’t seen a real cow before. But after a while, you’ll be seeing more and more brown cows. You realise that brown cows are everywhere, and they’re actually kind of boring.

But what if you then saw a PURPLE COW?! Now that would be remarkable! That’s something you’ll go and tell all of your friends about.

This marketing masterpiece by Seth Godin will show you how to build purple cows in your business that will take you from your initial customer through to the mainstream market. Traditional marketing (ads on mainstream media like TV and radio) doesn’t work anymore. Today people rely on ‘word of mouth’ in order to sift through the thousands of offers and advertisements we face every day. By creating something ‘remarkable’, you’re giving people something to talk about. 

Death of industrial complex

Old rule: create safe ordinary products and combine them with great marketing. ‘Great marketing’ in the 20th century used to mean buying billboards and TV ads, because enough people would see the ads and go buy your product that you could afford to buy more ads. This used to be targeted at the early and late majority – aim for the fat and juicy middle of the market, make average products for average people, and play the percentages to make your profits. But now value isn’t in the size of the market, it is in its influence.

New rule: create remarkable products that seek the right people out. Early adopters heavily influence the rest of the curve. If it’s remarkable, they’ll tell the others. You can no longer afford to effectively buy advertisements that target everyone. Your only option then is to ignore the mass market, focus on the small niche and make them fall in love with what you have to offer, then get them to spread it to the masses. 

Moore’s idea diffusion curve

  1. Innovators
  2. Early adopters
  3. Early majority
  4. Late majority
  5. Laggards

Getting in

Only the risk-taking, idea-spreading people on left of curve are willing to listen to you. The vast majority of the curve ignores you. Once the early adopters embrace what you are selling, they will sell it to the early and late majority, not you.


One of Seth’s previous books, Unleashing The Ideavirus published in 2000, was at the time the most downloaded eBook ever. It was based on the concept that ideas spread like viruses spread – people ‘sneeze’ and it spreads from person to person. Of course, in the idea world, the ‘sneeze’ is when you tell someone else about the idea. You want to find the key ‘sneezers’ in the market, because they’re the ones that are going to infect more and more people with your idea.

Ideas that spread, win

A brand or product offering is nothing more than an idea. Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed than those that don’t. ‘Sneezers’ are the key spreading agents of an ideavirus. So how to make an idea spread? There are sneezers in every market, but sneezers in the huge markets have too many choices and are too satisfied for you to capture there interest. The way you break through to the mainstream is to target a niche instead of a huge market: create an ideavirus that is so focused it overwhelms that small slice of the market and truly will respond to what you sell.

Problem with the cow

The cow is so rare because people are so afraid. If you’re trying to do something different and remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you (in fact, most people probably won’t like you). If that worries you, then the best a timid person can hope for is to go unnoticed – criticism comes to those who stand out. 

But we need to understand this and realise that, if we want to win, we can’t possibly please everyone. When Comedy Central focus group tested South Park, it scored and average 1.5/10 from women (and that’s from the ones that stuck around to rate it, forgetting about all of those that walked out). But the group that mattered weren’t the adult women, it was the adolescent boys who would spread the word. Thankfully the TV network ignore the mass market and cared only about the early adopters, and South Park has been going strong since 1997. 

Problem with cheap

Once you start, your competitor will likely play the same game in an incremental price war. And if you do a ‘25% off storewide sale’ this week, who is going to want to buy it at full price next week? In a race to the bottom, even the winner loses.

Opposite of remarkable

It’s not what you might think. The opposite of remarkable isn’t ‘bad’ or ‘crap’ or ‘awfu’. The opposite of remarkable is ‘very good’. Something that is ‘very good’ isn’t remarkable. Factories make things that are very good. Processes are built to ensure that mass-produced products meet the minimum specifications. But ‘very good’ things happen every day so they aren’t worth telling your friends about.

Will and the way

Goal of purple cow to show its safer to be risky – to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes more imperative to create things worth talking about. Like most of Seth’s books, he gets you inspired and fired up and opens your eyes to a new way of thinking. He doesn’t tell you exactly what to do (go an build this specific remarkable new widget by following steps a, b and c), but he gives you some ideas and gives you the push you need to go out and work it out for yourself. If this booked stirred up the will within you, you’ll go out and find a way.


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