Is it safe to trot out your purple cow? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Is it safe to trot out your purple cow?

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Today, products have to be more than functional and reliable. They’ve got to be exceptional, with style built right in. So says Seth Godin, marketing savant and proponent of the “purple cow”: the product that stands out from the rest.

His lesson? Boring products always lead to failure. The boring strategy is the riskiest strategy.

Example 1: Godin’s friend, Chip Conley, runs more than a dozen hotels in San Francisco that are popular with the smart set.

His first hotel, the Phoenix, is in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. Conley bought it for next to nothing and knew that no matter how he fixed it up, hardly anyone would stay there. Which is fine. Because it’s small.

So, he designed it with dramatic colors and textures, made it chic and modern and hip with style magazines in all the rooms, hired a cutting-edge artist to paint the pool and invited rock stars to stay there.

Within months, Conley scored a hit. He created something remarkable: a purple cow.

Example 2: Cadillac’s new CTS, in Godin’s opinion, is one of the ugliest cars ever. No matter. The car is selling like hot cakes. It’s the biggest success Cadillac has enjoyed in decades because the people who buy it love it.

Example 3: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”—a purple cow in that it differed from almost every other Hollywood movie—became one of the most profitable movies of 2002. Moviegoers ate it up.

As markets grow more turbulent, more people seek safety. They want to eliminate as much risk as possible, Godin says, and they mistakenly believe the way to do that is to play it safe.

That’s your opportunity to create a purple cow.

— Adapted from Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin, Portfolio.

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