Purple Cow

Seth Godin

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Make your product remarkable, not good. Focus on your early-adapters and power-users and build from there. Quick read that gives some tried-and-true advice for startups.


They showed that there are only four kinds of people (prospects, customers, loyal customers, and former customers) and that loyal customers are often happy to spend more money with you.

Being first in the frozen pizza category was a good idea. Being first in pain relievers was an even better idea. Alas, they’re both taken.

The world has changed. There are far more choices, but there is less and less time to sort them out.

Every day, companies spend millions to re-create the glory days of the TV-industrial complex. And every day, they fail. 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 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 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.

One of the best excuses your colleagues will come up with, though, is that they don’t have the ability to find the great idea, or if they do, they don’t know how to distinguish the great idea from the lousy ideas.

Instead of trying to use your technology and expertise to make a better product for your users’ standard behavior, experiment with inviting the users to change their behavior to make the product work dramatically better.

If a product’s future is unlikely to be remarkable—if you can’t imagine a future in which people are once again fascinated by your product—it’s time to realize that the game has changed. Instead of investing in a dying product, take profits and reinvest them in building something new.

The only chance you have is to sell to people who like change, who like new stuff, who are actively looking for what it is you sell.

A brand (or a new product offering) is nothing more than an idea. Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed than those that don’t. I call ideas that spread, ideaviruses. Sneezers are the key spreading agents of an ideavirus. These are the experts who tell all their colleagues or friends or admirers about a new product or service on which they are a perceived authority. Sneezers are the ones who launch and maintain ideaviruses. Innovators or early adopters may be the first to buy your product, but if they’re not sneezers as well, they won’t spread your idea.

The way you break through to the mainstream is to target a niche instead of a huge market.

Differentiate your customers. Find the group that’s most profitable. Find the group that’s most likely to sneeze. Figure out how to develop /advertise/reward either group. Ignore the rest. Your ads (and your products!) shouldn’t cater to the masses. Your ads (and products) should cater to the customers you’d choose if you could choose your customers.

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?

Nobody says, “Yeah, I’d like to set myself up for some serious criticism!” And yet … the only way to be remarkable is to do just that.

Well, creators of the Purple Cow must measure as well. Every product, every interaction, every policy is either working (persuading sneezers and spreading the word) or not. Companies that measure will quickly optimize their offerings and make them more virus-worthy

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

Could you make a collectible version of your product?

Arguably, there are more people who enjoy mustard than people who enjoy brain-scorching 25,000-Scoville-unit hot sauce. Yet hot sauce is a business and mustard isn’t. Why? Because very few people will order mustard by mail or request a different brand at a restaurant. They don’t have the otaku.

The system is pretty simple: Go for the edges. Challenge yourself and your team to describe what those edges are (not that you’d actually go there), and then test which edge is most likely to deliver the marketing and financial results you seek. By reviewing every other P—your pricing, your packaging, and so forth—you sketch out where your edges are… and where your competition is.

In almost every market, the boring slot is filled. The product designed to appeal to the largest possible audience already exists, and displacing it is awfully difficult.

Remember, it’s not about being weird. It’s about being irresistible to a tiny group of easily reached sneezers with otaku. Irresistible isn’t the same as ridiculous. Irresistible (for the right niche) is just remarkable.

Do YOU REALLY THINK that any one of the ten people who will buy out the entire production run of the world’s fastest motorcycle (0 to 250 miles an hour in 14 seconds) will ever take it to top speed? Of course not. But for $250,000, they sure could. Is your product the best at anything worth measuring?

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.

Copy. Not from your industry, but from any other industry. Find an industry more dull than yours, discover who’s remarkable (it won’t take long), and do what they did.

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