Book Reviews · Education and Beyond

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Book cover of Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Purple Cow by Seth Godin was a book given to me by a friend. Since I am learning more about jewelry and jewelry making, testing the market, and exploring more business-like aspects, I thought I’d give this book a try.

When I began reading this, I didn’t do any research on who Seth Godin was (turns out, he’s a pretty big bigwig). Anyway, I started reading and thought it was incredibly boring. I was reading 20-30 pages and thought, Why is he still saying that the old way of marketing products doesn’t work? and This is a waste of paper. Godin explains why the old way of marketing doesn’t work and pretty much everything is invented. I get it. It was like Godin was beating this idea through his readers’ skull with a mallet. How does anyone continue reading this?

I took a break from it for a little over a month, then came back to it. I returned to this book because in this break, I was thinking about my target audience, my brand name, and how to differentiate my jewelry business from ones that have already been in the market for any period of time. I struggled with all three. I was also listening to an NPR podcast called, How I Built This (HBIT), where Guy Raz (the host) interviews founders of very well-known and established businesses, like Door Dash, Rent the Runway, Men’s Warehouse, and many more. I highly recommend this podcast.

Once you get over the idea that the old way of marketing doesn’t work – have a product and advertise it on TV and magazines – here are the essentials of the book, according to Seth Godin, for a successful business:

  1. Have a purple cow – a remarkable product
    • Godin explains a story when he was in France and drove by the first few herds of cows, he was in awe of the sight. As he continued driving, he kept seeing brown cows. He became aware that he would get the same excitement if there was a purple cow!
    • Fill a hole in the market
    • Differentiate your product from your competitors
    • Start a new industry
  2. Target sneezers – consumers who are open-minded, like to try new things, and will tell everyone they know about this amazing product
    • Closed minded or hesitant buyers will choose the same brand their parents and everyone else uses. It’s a safe choice with an expected outcome
    • Don’t appeal to every consumer. If you try to target every consumer, your competitors are Walmart and IKEA. Instead, target a select group
  3. Experiment with your product – keep innovating your product
    • Take failures as learning what doesn’t work
  4. Marketing has to be built in to the product – the product should be able to sell itself
    • Godin recommends getting people from different departments involved in the design, creation, and marketing of the product. Therefore, you get lots of insight and perspectives to make the best possible product
  5. Once your product is a success, milk it for all its worth
    • Once there is this huge influx of attention to and purchases of your product, there will be a time when sales will slow and plateau. This is normal because what’s new is no longer new and everyone already has your product
    • When you come back to the market with something new, make sure it’s another purple cow and milk that for all its worth

*Note, “product” can also be applied to services.

Other aspects I think are worth noting:

  • The style he writes is like he’s talking to you, so no over-complicated language and jargon. Sometimes you’ll read a long sentence.
  • He provides some breathing room with some questions he asks you that are in bold with a bullet point.
  • There is a section at the end of the book where he included ways that businesses and entrepreneurs make their business unique. One of the businesses featured had the business owner of a photo printing shop hand-deliver photos, and used the reason as “I was in the neighborhood.”

After noticing that Godin almost never mentioned “social media” that I looked to see what version I had. 2002. In addition, Godin wrote that he wouldn’t change what he originally wrote, instead to add something else, in this case, a section on entrepreneurs who make their businesses unique (3rd point from “Other aspects I think are worth noting)”.

The final verdict: Yes to the book; if you feel like you’re reading repetition, skip it; do some research on social media and how to use it to your advantage.

4 thoughts on “Purple Cow by Seth Godin

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