Literature Review - Seth Godin - Purple Cow


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For my Mastercourse in Imagineering I made this literature review of Seth Godin's book Purple Cow.

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Literature Review - Seth Godin - Purple Cow

  1. 1. Literature Review<br />Very Good is Bad<br />Don’t be Boring<br />Design Rules Now<br />Jeffrey Houtman<br />Save is Risky<br />Seth Godin<br />
  2. 2. The Author<br />SETH GODIN (bornJuly 10, 1960) has written thirteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. American Way Magazine calls him ‘America's Greatest Marketer’ and his blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. <br />Before Godin became a successful author, he graduated from Tufts University in 1979 with a degree in computer science and philosophy. Godin earned his MBA in marketing from Stanford Business School. From 1983 to 1986, he worked as a brand manager at Spinnaker Software. For a time Godin commuted every week between California and Boston both to do his new job and to complete his MBA.<br />After leaving Spinnaker Software in 1986, Godin became a book packager. It was in the same offices that Godin met Mark Hurst and founded Yoyodyne. After a few years Godin sold the book packaging business to his employees and focused his efforts on Yoyodyne, one of the first online marketing companies.It was with Yoyodyne that Godin came up with the concept of permission marketing. For a period of time, Godin served as a columnist for Fast Company.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  3. 3. The Content<br />Godin’s viewpoints<br />Godin believes that the end of the ‘TV-Industrial Complex’ means that marketers no longer have the power to command the attention of anyone they choose, whenever they choose. Second, in a marketplace in which consumers have more power, he thinks marketers must show more respect. This means no spam, no deceit and a bias for keeping promises. Finally, Godin asserts that the only way to spread the word about an idea is for that idea to earn the buzz by being remarkable. Godin refers to those who spread these ideas as ‘Sneezers’, and to the spreading idea as an ‘IdeaVirus’. He calls a remarkable product or service a purple cow. Yahoo! <br />Advertisements on television and radio are classified as 'interruption marketing' which interrupt the customer while they are doing something of their preference. Godin introduced the concept of ‘permission marketing’ where the business provides something ‘anticipated, personal, and relevant’.<br />In a nutshell this represents Godin’s core beliefs from where he based the theory of Purple Cow on. <br />Seth Godin<br />
  4. 4. The Content<br />The problem<br />For years the Kotler’s concept of the 5 (or more) P’s of marketing were embraced by marketers from all over the world. Since society is changing rapidly, this ‘marketing checklist’ isn’t likely to cope with these changes anymore. <br />The end of the ‘TV-Industrial Complex’ has a great impact on marketing. Mass marketing doesn’t work anymore. Consumers have more and more available choices when buying a product, and,on the other hand they have less and less available time to sort them all out. This <br />means the virtuous circle of this ‘TV-Industrial Complex’ (displayed on The virtuous cycle of the ‘TV-Industrial Complex’<br />the right) can not longer be created. <br />More choice means more competition and more competition meansmore power for the consumers. Marketers should find an other way<br />to grab the attention of these consumers to ensure their presence on<br />the market. Not only an other way of getting attention, but a way with <br />more respect to the consumer as well (to manage their increased power).<br />For this new bias between organization and consumer Godin wrote this book.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  5. 5. The Content<br />Godin’s solution<br />To make the P’s work again, Godin came up with a new P: the purple cow. The purple cow is a metaphor of being Remarkable (which unfortunately don’t start with a ‘P’). <br />Since mass marketing doesn’t work anymore and consumers are better and better in ignoring advertisements, new products and/or services should be remarkable. Nowadays it’s very hard to enter an existing market. Organizations shouldn’t try to be attractive for the mass, but better focus on a niche in the market they can dominate. Filling up a niche means you have a small and specific audience you can focus on. Mass advertisement now isn’t needed anymore, so you can take the approach Godin described as ‘ideavirus’: get the attention of a small, but passionate target group that is willing to try out new things and have them 'sneeze' the 'virus' to their friends. Of course advertisement will always exist, but it will get an other purpose. They now will be used to support the ‘sneezers’ telling the essence to their friends. This means the focus will be mainly on these ‘sneezers’.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  6. 6. The content<br />Creating a purple cow<br />Godin states: ‘the opposite of remarkable is very good’. It is not about providing quality since this is somethingconsumers expect anyway. Creating a purple cow is all about creating something that’s worth talking about and worth sharing. It should be thátremarkable people will notice YOU out of the whole. Develop a product or service that is different, renewal and outstanding. Something no other organization can compete with once YOU entered the niche. <br /> Product Life Cycle and its value<br />This whole process asked an other attitude of marketers. <br />They will act more and more like designers. They have to <br />involve everybody in the company to work and to share <br />knowledge in order to get everything out what’s in a new <br />concept. The company alone is not enough. Marketers <br />should surface their ‘sneezers’. Théyare willing to think <br />with you and spread ‘the word’. As mentioned before, this <br />very same group is where you should focus you advertisement on. From the ‘Product Lifecycle’ perspective the ‘sneezers’ usually are the innovators and the early majority. Although the early and late majority represents by far the most customers, the ‘sneezers’ are way more valuable: they are heavily influencing the rest of the curve. Persuading them is worth far more than wasting ad-dollars trying to persuade anyone else.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  7. 7. The content<br />Everlasting?<br />No! Like every product a purple cow has a Product Life Cycle what means it will stop blossom sooner or later. Now you have two options: You can play it save, and milk the cow or you pick up the challenge again and create a new purple cow.<br />It’s obvious the second option causes more effort and is more risk-taking as the first, but if you’re are in this stage it’s clear the risk you took for the previous purple cow paid off. Although you might have developed a successful purple cow, it doesn’t mean it is a receipt that can’t fail. Godin mentioned that’s no big deal to fail, it’s just something what may happen in business and you should be able to accept it if things doesn’t work out the way you planned it. Godin even stated you’d better spend you budget on ten different projects instead of one mass advertisement campaign which, as we’ve seen, more likely won’t succeed anyway nowadays. Even if all ten projects fail, you still got 10 very valuable cases of what works and what not. <br />If you stick to the principles of don’t be boring, save is risky, very good is bad and design rules now, you got the right attitude to create a new purple cow and dominate a new niche in the market.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  8. 8. The purple cow Vs. Imagineering<br />The agreements<br />The purple cow and Imagineering meet each other in the very beginning of recognizing the paradigm shift in society, and the changes it causes in the relationship between consumers and organizations.<br />A purple cow isn’t created by just the marketing department. The whole company and the ‘sneezers’ are involved in the process, so in fact they are co-creating value. This value is going back and forth between every stakeholder involved which means it’s not a linear, but a synchronic way of value creation. The creative way of developing a concept worth talking about can be seen as what Imagineers calls ‘the generative artifact’. <br />Godin also talked about the fact product life cycles get shorter, with products being replaced quickly. To some extend this can be linked to the concept of S-curves which agree on faster replacements and shorter life cycles as well.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  9. 9. The purple cow Vs. Imagineering<br />Deflections<br />Although there are quite some agreements between the 2 theories, not everything match perfectly. Some parts only differ a little bit, other conflicts more.<br />Throughout the book Godin used the metaphor of spreading a ‘virus’ with ‘sneezers’. Imagineers use a lot of one-liners concerning the way you should use language like: ‘words create worlds’ and ‘naming is framing’. Use an other well known one-liner, ‘look for the flowers’, and you can come up with a metaphor which tells the same, but don’t evoke a negative feeling. For example you could say: ‘The more colorful, fragrant, outstanding and Remarkable a flower (virus) is, the more honeybees (sneezers) it will attract. You can say Imagineering is more conscious about the impact of words, so they are more subtle spreading the message.<br />According to Godin success is all about creating something that is remarkable. Imagineering goes way more in dept. Behind the product there is a strong identity based on a organization’s core values. Besides this strong identity there is a meaning making narrativity. Although this is a very brief description is already shows Imagineering got way more body compared to the purple cow. It’s not only about the product, the organization behind it should be designed perfectly as well.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  10. 10. My opinion and relevance<br />My opinion<br />I think the content of this book is really easy to read. The writing style is easy and entertaining. On the other hand the lack of a strong index in the book is a great miss. Instead of giving structure by adding chapters and paragraphs, the book knows just dozens of ‘titles’. Some of them contain a few pages, other just a half. This makes processing the information sometimes a bit hard. <br />Godin used a lot of examples to make the theory clear and understandable. Unfortunately he mostly picked U.S. brands. Some I know but others not, what makes it harder to understand them. I think adding examples from all over the world prevents the book for have a small gap with readers from outside the U.S. The amount of examples is quite big I think, which of course makes thingsmore clear, but sometimes give the feeling of ‘been there, done that’. <br />Although I think the book contains some valuable principles, it’s still a very popular written book without going really in dept (see previous slide). On the other hand Godin don’t promise ‘golden eggs’. He keeps a realistic view on his theory and don’t focus only on the good examples and the success stories. He clearly mentioned that it isn’t easy, it isn’t cheap and there is reasonable change of failures. I think this is a strong point of the book.<br />Seth Godin<br />
  11. 11. My opinion and relevance<br />Relevance<br />As mentioned already twice I don’t think this book goes deep enough to adopt it as an theory on his own. But I do think I can pick some elements which can strengthen and extend my current theories and knowledge. The agreements with the theory of Imagineering already showed there is a lot in common, so in this sense I will use some of the theory anyway. <br />Looking to the author it’s not very likely he will be my first choice for my next book. Although I enjoyed reading this book, I prefer books which are less popular written, and which go more in dept. Without my background of Imagineering I don’t think the content of the book is as useful as it is now and in my opinion a book should be useful without a particular background and should offer a bit more background information (which doesn’t mean I’ll never read this kind of books again).<br />A nice side issue is the fact this book broadened my ‘command’ of the Japanese language. I love the language for its ‘all descriptive’ words most languages just don’t have. If you have a otaku for something, it means is more than passion but less than an obsession. I can sum up immediately some things I have a ‘otaku’ for. So sorry Both Dutch and English can’tdescribe this!<br />To conclude I really enjoyed reading the book and I’m happy to adopt these insides to my knowledge!<br />Seth Godin<br />