Review of Purple Cow by Seth Godin

With a name like “Purple Cow“, you know you’re in for reading something a little different to the average business book.

There are a lot of books written on marketing and now with blogs, it can be a situation of truly wondering if you are going to get some real advice, or just “marketing wash” to sell the book or blog itself.

Some advice is so dated it sounds like a “comes with free steak knives” style ad in your head. Other stuff is just pure SEO work that values ranking over content. Snore!

But once in a while there is a marketer who truly knows what they are on about. And that person is Seth Godin.

I just finished reading his book “Purple Cow” and even though it’s a little old (2002), it’s a must read for ANYONE who has a product idea, startup or works anywhere near marketing or product management. It’ll really moooo-ve you.


Right off the bat, he points out the blinking obvious. And it’s freaking cow-tastic that he does.

Paraphrasing it but…

Aim for a quality product that is easy to market. Your aim should not be to create something and then hand it onto marketing for a whirl around the spin machine- you need to make your product be remarkable and talked about from the get go. If it’s not remarkable, what’s the point?

Forget about committee development and trying to please everyone because you open yourself up to a watered down, boring product attached to a similarly vanilla message that is a compromise for your egos and means nothing to a potential customer.

Pick your niche, know your audience and create your product for them. Don’t make a product for everyone because that’s a product for no one.

It doesn’t matter if the audience is early adopter, middle majority, laggard or whatever- people are REALLY good at ignoring you.

This one should probably go out on mass to startup conferences throughout Australia:

Whilst early adopters are a plum everyone tries to pick with new products, there is no promise they will actually spread your idea around to people. Even if they do like your product, don’t count on their word of mouth.


Some of them like to know about the cool new thing but don’t necessarily want to share that with ‘the commoners’ because it kills some of the mystique.

The ones that do talk might suck at being able to do it in a way that other people like, can attach to or trust.

Even if they do share it and can share it well, how do you know they are sharing it to the right customer audience?

What you actually want when marketing a new product:

People who can share your product with people who can do so in such a way that others try it.

You need what Godin terms “an ideavirus” which is then “sneezed” from customer to customer. Because the idea is infectious, it goes viral.

Well isn’t that just a high five to the forehead?

So… how do you know you have struck gold or are mucking about in the sandpit with the other children or worst still, the kid in the corner banging their head on the wall?

When you are looking at your concept on a product development level, or when you are looking at whether your idea is actually going to fly, ask yourself the following questions to see if you have an ideavirus worth sneezing:

• How smooth and easy is it for you to spread your idea?

• How easy is it for your customers?

• How often will your customers share your idea with their friends?

• How tightly knit is the group you are targeting? Do they talk much?

• Do they believe each other and trust their recommendations?

• How reputable are the people you want to promote your idea to others?

• How persistent is the idea you have? Is it catering to fad? Is it long life? Brand new?

The key here is to “design your ideavirus to be worthy of sneezing in the first instance” so if you haven’t created conditions within your product that gets your product sneezing along happily, keep working on it until you do.

With Purple Cow and ideaviruses abounding, there are certainly a lot of common sense yet overlooked marketing techniques to attach to.

Get your hands on a copy of Purple Cow by Seth Godin. It’s well worth it. 

Want more book reviews? Check out my book review section. 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.