Purple Cow by Seth Godin – Book Review

Author: Seth Godin

Originally published: May 2003



As Frank Zappa say,

“So many books, so little time.”

Would you like to know whether this book is right for you?
Would you like to know this book can change the results you are getting in your current way of marketing?
I’m sure after reading this article about Purple Cow, you will get your answers.

The meaning of title – Purple Cow :

  • Brown cow is ordinary like conventional marketing techniques from street banners to TV advertisements. It’s everywhere like brown cow so it’s invisible. Nobody is watching it and even if someone does, they just ignore it.
  • To make people notice you, you need to come up with Purple cow. People have not seen something like that ever, so it will be remarkable for them. They will notice it.

Basic realities :

Mr. Godin is telling here to change the way marketing works in your business. Why do you need to change? To answer that here are the facts about today’s scenarios he has mentioned :

  • The basic Ps of marketing (like : product, pricing, promotion, positioning, publicity, packaging, etc) are not enough in this era. Even if you make all Ps right, you are invisible like everyone.
  • Coming up with something different is not another option but it’s our only option.
  • Mass marketing is not as effective as it used to be. It is so costly and even if you have money to invest in it, the ROI (Return Of Investment) varies from very bad to average. Obviously, it is not acceptable to any business.
  • Our world has already come up with enough products which satisfy human needs, now the game is all about fulfilling human wants.
  • Even if you are satisfying your existing customers, they are less likely to tell their friends.
  • Businesses are keeping product department and market department separated due to which remarkable products are being marketed poorly and vice versa.
  • People try to copy successful examples. They are failing to understand that they succeeded because they were remarkable and when you are replicating it, the same thing is not remarkable anymore.
  • People are playing safe which is the most risky thing these days.
  • People are failing to understand that no one is going to adopt their product eagerly. There will be very few at first and if you are not remarkable, they are not going to recommend you to anyone
  • Today product for everybody is product for nobody.
  • In most businesses, marketing efforts are just a product compromise or a budget compromise (we don’t have money to launch a new product, let’s release a new slogan or new marketing campaign).
  • Being cheap is the lazy way out for competition but once you start, your most competitors are going to play the same. Now you are just like everyone.

And in his book, he has mentioned everything stated above with real life examples which all readers can easily relate. Those examples are pretty convincing to what he is saying about present situation of most of the businesses.

What do I like in this book?

Mr. Godin has conveyed his message in very easy language but as Swedish proverb says, “In a good book the best is between the lines.” And believe me once you read between lines, your idea about marketing will change drastically.

Here are some of the things he conveyed which I liked :

  • Marketing is not advertising now. That marketing is dead. Today customers are so busy, they don’t have time to watch your advertisement campaigns. They just ignore you. Old rules are not going to work.
  • Stop advertising, Start innovating.
  • Even you get early adopters for your product or service, you are not going to be able to get any advantages until they are sneezers. So your niche must be the early adopters who are effective sneezers as well. Then and then you will be able to reach your early majority of consumers.
  • Awareness is not the point anymore. Even people are aware about your product or a service, that doesn’t mean they are going to adopt it. You have to create a purple cow for your niche.
  • People fear to experiment. They fear to do new things as it is risky. But in order to play safe, they are being ordinary which no one likes to notice. So being safe is risky, very risky. If you acknowledge that you’ll never catch up by being the same, make list of ways you can catch up by being different.
  • Create an environment where you are likely to invent a new purple cow in time to replace the previous one when its benefits inevitably trail off. Let other department milk the cow. It is suicide to stop creating new purple cow.
  • Let product and marketing department work together. In that way, a remarkable product will be created and it will be marketed remarkably.
  • Doing nothing is not as good as doing something but marketing just to keep consumer busy is worse than nothing at all.
  • Otaku is a word which has been keeps popping up. It describes something that’s more than a hobby but a little less than obsession. Consumers with otaku are sneezers you seek. Smart businesses target markets where there’s already otaku.
  • Purple cow isn’t always about changing the biggest machine in your factory. It can be the way you answer the phone, launch a new brand or price a revision to your software.

What I think is lacking (or should be here)?

As a reader like me, you must be expecting Mr. Godin to provide some techniques or ideas about how to create a successful purple cow. But you won’t find it there. You will get the reason when you will digest the book.


As P.J. O’Rourke say, “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” And after understanding this book I can say this is the one. I would say must go for this book if anyhow you are connected to Marketing.

I hope this article gave you enough idea about whether the book “The Purple Cow” worth your time or not.

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