Seth Godin’s book, The Purple Cow, is an absolute classic. If you are a marketer or work in advertising and don’t own a copy, then I would recommend clicking over to Amazon right now and grabbing one!
Recently, I was thrilled to be able to interview Seth for my Marketing Speak podcast. And, I asked him about The Purple Cow.
For those that don’t know, The Purple Cow is all about being remarkable. Seth argues that we’re so bombarded with information that the only way for marketers to cut through and reach their audience is to stand out from the crowd, like a purple cow in a field of brown cows.
Seth says that brands like IKEA, Google, and Starbucks owe their success in large part to being remarkable enough for people to talk about, thereby generating invaluable word of mouth buzz.
I decided to ask Seth about the most remarkable campaign, company, product or service that he’d seen since writing the book in 2003. His answer?
Well, first off he believes that there is almost no such thing as a remarkable campaign. Here’s what he said:
“It is super easy to run down the street with your hair painted green wearing no clothes and [have] people remark on that but they’re not remarking on the work you’re doing, they’re remarking on the hype. Ad agencies have been struggling since the demise of television advertising to stay relevant. What they ought to be doing is working on the products and the services, not the hype that goes around them.”
So, if businesses should focus on products or services that are remarkable enough to generate word of mouth, what would that look like?
Seth gave an example where talked about Facebook and Fax machines.
According to him, both products are remarkable for the same reason: you can’t use them on your own. If you buy a fax machine, you need to have someone to send a fax to. So when people went out and bought fax machines in the 80s, they then had to convince their lawyers and accountants to go out and buy one too.
Facebook is remarkable in a similar way. You might sign up for Facebook by yourself, but it’s going to be a lot more fun if you convince all your friends to join too.
“Great,” you might say, “But how does that relate to my business?” According to Seth, you can apply the same principle to any product or service:
“It works in business to business settings, it works in tiny settings, it works for summer camps. If our summer camp has two families from Cincinnati, it’s not going to grow in Cincinnati because it’s too risky to talk about the summer camp. On the other hand, if you invest geographically so now there are eight or ten families in Cincinnati, people will talk about it because people like us go to a summer camp like this. At the tiniest possible level, this network effect of remarkability kicks in. I’m not on the clever end of the remarkable spectrum, I’m on the community end of the remarkable spectrum.”
If you want some more great tips on making your business remarkable, check out The Big Moo, Seth’s follow up to The Purple Cow where thinkers like Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell, Guy Kawasaki, Mark Cuban, and Robyn Waters answer the question of what makes a company remarkable.