Purple cow- The New P of marketing

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 4296 , Published on 23 October 2011

I've never seen a purple cow.
I never hope to see one.
But from the milk we're getting now,
There certainly must be one

‘Purple cow’ is an innovative concept coined by well renowned writer Seth Godin. Purple cow is about transforming your business by being ‘REMARKABLE’.


It follows a simple idea - “Everything that can be invented has already been invented” which means everything that we do in the world of marketing has been overused and has been rendered almost useless. The world and its consumers look for something out of the ordinary. Seth Godin explains the concept in his book ‘The Purple Cow (2003)’. He says that cows, no matter how perfect or attractive,are still boring and commonplace, but a ‘purple cow’ would be interesting and intriguing.

With the rapid change in consumer behaviour and clutter of advertisements, it is getting extremely challenging for the marketers to figure out what works in the real world and the common thread running through all the success stories. There are far more choices, but smaller chances to sort them out. The truth about marketing is that most people can’t buy your product because they don’t have the time and the money or they just don’t want to buy it. If the audience does not have the money, you don’t have a market and if they don’t have the time, you and your product advertising are invisible. This is where you need to make your product remarkable by impressive positioning of your product attributes , packaging , or even operational ease. In the Indian context, it can even mean advertising in such a way that it grabs attention of the viewer.

What is common in Success stories like Wal-Mart, Apple and Nokia… well they have nothing in common, the fact is these companies are outliers; they built themselves not by advertising their products but by providing “remarkable” products or services, which were unique to these companies. Once it is done it no longer the same for the followers even super fast followers.

Purple cow is not about giving consumers what they want; it is about aiming for those niche and passionate people who will help in spreading the message about the product. It is the marketer who differentiates the product. The organizations who believe in this concept have marketers at the core.

The company may not be providing any new benefit to the consumer, but just by positioning it in such a way that attracts the consumers attention is your work half done.  A purple cow is defined as something worth making a remark about. The concept has one fundamental belief - one person giving another person genuine reviews about something they believe in. The idea is to target the early adopters and let them spread the word about the product or service. When a customer buys a mobile phone he checks blogs, posts , websites( fonearena.com )to see a comparative and complete picture of the mobile phone market.

Purple cow would mean betting out of the vicious circle of ‘TV-Industrial complex’ i.e. going beyond just TV advertising and Manufacturing.

The below table summarises the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ of Marketing

TV Industrial Age

Post TV Age

Average Products

Remarkable Products

Advertise to anyone

Advertise to the early adopter

Fear of Failure

Fear of Fear

Long Cycles

Short Cycles

Small Changes

Big Changes

The original Beetle car was a success because of the exceptional marketing that followed the introduction. In contrast, the new beetle was a success because of its unique shape/look and the comfortable drive. We can see how Volkswagen’s strategies have shaped itself over the years.

But is it true for Indian scenario also? We believe that India as a country still gives a high importance to the message in advertisements. Indians are high on emotional connect, so to capture their attention advertisements plays a big role. The recent campaign of Cadbury’s “Maa se Milne jao” is a raging hit and spreading virally on social networking websites, We see this because the company differentiated itself by not attaching happiness with the chocolate but attaching a message with it, which makes the advertisement a purple cow. Hence we conclude in the Indian context, using a commercial works well if you can separate yourself from the clutter and your advertisement can touch a chord with the audience. In today’s world all you need to fail, is be traditional and boring.

The goal in being a Purple cow is to understand the paradox – “It’s safer to be risky”

Be a PURPLE COW and you will be noticed for sure.

This article has been authored by Aakash Sharma and Ann Varghese from NMIMS


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