<br />Creating Purple CowsA friend wanted to smack me. “You left out the best part,” she told me after reading Digital Scale. “You end the piece with a call to arms, the need to create purple special things and then you stop,” she told me over lunch. She caught me. The hardest thing any marketing person does these days is find, pitch and create Purple Cows.Seth Godin fans know The Purple Cow, his 2003 book, may be one of the most important marketing books. Seth’s strangely colored cow’s simple premise is only unique or “purple” things should be created. Don’t think, Seth explains, you will incrementally improve a Ginzu knife. There can only ever be one Ginzu knife. That purple cow exists and you can't succeed by copying.P&G had an early version of The Purple Cow. Unique Selling Proposition or USP was P&G’s Purple Cow (read my Death of P&G). P&G, when I worked there in the early 1980’s, was the land of incremental improvements. New and improved were holy writ. Every six months Tide (or Downey, Bounce or Mr. Clean) would be new and improved. There was always some small explainable tweak, a new unpronounceable feature, to shoulder millions in advertising. There was a reason and a story even these "
new and improved"
stories only existed in some mythical Procter and Gamble marketing heaven.P&G loved to hire retired military. My boss, Sam Space, flew jets over Vietnam. Time doesn’t stand still. P&G today is vastly different than P&G circa 1981, but the lesson is applicable. Soap operas, P&G's advertising creation to sell soap, are ending. Soap operas ending may be one of the best marketing "
. An entire TV paradigm, soap operas, seems hopelessly out of date. “Reality"
TV has long since over exposed every personal intimacy, tick and foible. In a culture of alien babies, Jerry Springer insanity and paternity tests on Maury what soap opera writer can compete?Creating Purple CowsDidn’t mean to seem flip. Creating true purple cows may be the hardest thing any marketer does. There are two ways to create purple cows: junk bond and toe dipping.Creating Purple Cows: Junk Bond ApproachJunk Bonds is a favorite analogy. My staff groans when they hear me say “junk”. They know more about junk bond traders than most due to my relentless examples (sorry guys). Junk bond traders know diversification is their best protection. In any set of ten junk junk bonds a majority will fail. Fail means lose money. Junk bond traders bet one or two will hit big enough to carry the cost for all ten. A few winners pay for many losers in Junk bonds and purple cows. Using a junk bond approach means risk is spread among many ideas. If you strike 2 out of 10 you are in the purple cow hall of fame.The Internet is a junk bond purple cow creating machine. The first “product” marketing teams create is a story (read Seth's All Marketers Are Liars re: importance of storytelling). It has never been easier to test a marketing story. Throw ten stories online, wait and see what lure catches fish. Then feed the fish. I’ve helped market several purple cows (M&M's, Magnetic Poetry Kit, Zen Board). All of my experience in creating past purple cows means nothing in creating one today or tomorrow. Brilliant screenwriter William Goldman’s defining Hollywood statement, “nobody knows anything,” applies to purple cow creation. Past experiences are worst than useless. Past experience have no bearing on what is about to happen AND they may act as blinders. No one knows anything and the most dangerous people in the room think they knows something.The junk bond approach to creating purple cows is sum up your market. Remember any summary is impossibly time stamped and probably useless. Start creating stuff. Get your potentially purple cows moving. Put your cows in an online pasture. Post a huge “Get Your Picture Taken With A Purple Cow” sign, sit back and LISTEN. Listen to every rustle in the reeds. Jump on any movement. Feed any small flame. Mix any metaphor (lol). Share what is happening. Create a NOW feedback loop on our site. Receive an email with a good question? Flush it to your site almost before you stop reading. Feedback is kindling. Blow customer feedback kindling and roaring flames may result.What if roaring flames don’t result? Anything happening NOW is valuable. I’ve seen entrepreneurial fevers, been in one too, and warn against them. Passion and commitment are important purple cow creation ingredients. You can’t casually create purple cows. Remember your cow isn’t purple until THEY (customers) tell you it is. Your ability to force purpleness is zero. See the problem? In order to create a purple cow you have to incorporate future traits. If you could do such a thing, predict the future, you wouldn’t try to create a purple cows. You would float by on your yacht and wave (maybe).Be passionate about your commitment to create purple cows NOT to any individual idea of what YOU think is purple. If this sounds like eastern philosophy you win a gold Buddha. Jim Collins, in another great marketing book Good to Great, wrote how Hewlett and Packard created philosophy and values before products. HP’s founders understood values are hard. Products are easy. One of HP’s first products was a bowling ball foul lane alarm. See how indifferent you should be to any single idea. Get your junk bond purple cow creation THING together, spread the table with lots of ideas and be committed to creativity, magic and passion.Creating Purple Cows: Toe DippingToe dipping creates fewer simultaneous ideas. Total investment is kept small until market feedback shapes and molds the idea. There is less idea diversification in toe dipping. Two or three options may compete in a toe dipping strategy. Toe dippers are good at fast proto-typing. They push new born ideas out for market maturation. Microsoft and Apple are toe dippers.Now that I’ve offended every reader, let me explain. Microsoft pushes software out the door with bugs knowing wisdom of crowds feedback is the fastest way to clean their product. If Microsoft had to carry the financial load of so much error checking and quality control even they would go broke. Rely on the market to do more than its fair share of work and you risk being branded a user – someone who takes more from the market than they give back.Apple is a toe dipper in a different way. Apple incubates fewer ideas longer. Apple’s brand is tied to high design. If they pushed five new bug ridden products to market the central message of their brand – we know design – would be tarnished. Apple is too smart. They avoid Microsoft’s full foot dipping preferring to incubate longer. They use the extra time to improve fit, finish and design.Creating Purple Cows: The Best ApproachCreating purple cows is hard. It is highly context sensitive. Context such as your market vertical, your company’s processes and your team’s skills play roles. Creating purple cows takes everything you have and a little luck. There is no way to tell you how to create your purple cow. One final piece of advice. Purple things are easier to create when you think, speak and act like customers not marketing pros or product creators. Hypnotized by your own brilliance reduces chances of creating purple cows. Don’t drink your own cool aid. Listen, incorporate what you hear and modify, modify and modify some more (see chart). Good luck. Martin .<br />