Purple Cow | Notes & Review

Posted on November 26, 2008


Godin, Seth. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable. Portfolio (Penguin) 2003. (145 pages).


[the following notes are from a personal bibliography]

So, it’s interesting why a marketing book would be in a bibliography such as mine.  Couple reasons: a) if Godin is right, “everything we do is marketing-even if you’re not in the marketing department.” (145) b) it was referenced by Mark Oestreicher, president of YS.  c) it has dawned on me that ministry and marketing share much in their essences. Here are a few very brief reflections:


The fundamental commonality between both the business/marketing world and the church/ministry world is human behavior, and a desire to influence that behavior (for profits in the business world, for life change in the ministry world).  Sociologically, the advertising world has radically altered the way humans (in capitalist societies anyway) behave.  In contradistinction, have religious organizations been as successful at that manipulation?  Both seem to be losing “market share,” if you will.  Both are altering the way they do “business” to reach both wider and narrower audiences.  And it seems that both are actually borrowing values and ethics from each other in order to do better what each does specifically.  It’s a dynamically weird relationship.

Filled with plenty of Case Studies, this easy read simply identifies what it takes to be a “Purple Cow,” something that is outrageously remarkable.  The basic premise: “if your offering itself isn’t remarkable, it’s invisible.” (3)  And then this quote which reverberates with sentiments from PBS’s “The Persuaders.”

Years ago, our highly productive economy figured out how to satisfy almost everyone’s needs.  Then the game changed-it was all about satisfying our wants. (11)

Withholding any value judgments, that statement is very insightful into our contemporary cultural milieu.  I liked his introduction of the word otaku.

Otaku is a Japanese word that describes something that’s more than a hobby but a little less than an obsession.  Otaku is the overwhelming desire that gets someone to drive across town to try a new ramen-noodle shop that got a great review. (79)

I also appreciated “marketing done right.  Marketing where the marketer changes the product, not the ads.” (81)

One of my favorite nuggets: “If you don’t have time to do it right, what makes you think you’ll have time to do it over?” (104)

Perhaps the best take-away was a discussion about applying Purple Cow thinking to you, the person.

Be exceptional…Remarkable people often don’t even have a résumé…Remarkable people are often recruited from jobs they love to jobs they love even more.  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.  They work on high-profile projects.  These people take risks, often resulting in big failures.  These failures rarely lead to a dead end, though.  They’re not really risks, after all.  Instead, they just increase the chances that these people will get an even better project next time.  If you’re thinking about being a Purple Cow, the time to do it is when you’re not looking for a job. (110)