Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Something remarkable is worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting. This is a remarkable book for all those reasons. It is written with marketeers in mind but I think the insights are relevant to anyone involved in innovative product development. The book is a passionate plea to us all to think differently about our markets. And to think about marketing from the moment we begin to design a product or service. In fact marketing is design

The underlying theme of Seth's book is that the old ways of marketing are dead. He does a great job of explaining why. For example: "The sad truth is that whatever you make, most people cannot buy your product. Either they don't have the money, or they don't have the time, or they don't want it. The world has changed, there are far more choices and less and less time to sort them out."

Seth continues: "No-one is going to eagerly adapt to your product. The vast majority of customers are happy. Sold on what they have got. Not looking for a replacement, and anyway they don't like adapting to anything new."

These are humbling insights. It is all too easy to become caught up in your own success story when you are building products. You need the positive momentum to keep you going, to keep you excited. So it is a shock to discover that at the launch that the world isn't waiting eagerly for the stuff you have worked so hard on.

So what can you do?

Be remarkable. Create something that is worth noticing and that people talk about. Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed than those that don't. It is not about gimmicks. Not about creating remarkable blurb. Not about making a product attractive after it has been designed. It is about designing the product to be remarkable from the start. Products that are worth talking about will get talked about.

The book is stuffed full of examples of remarkable products and services to help you understand what Seth means by this. My favourites are: the Dutch Boy paint cans that are designed with easy opening lids and carrying handles to make the painting process easier. Tracey the publicist who chose to focus on the narrowest possible niche (plastic surgeons) and to become the world's best publicist in that niche. The Four Seasons in Manhattan that knows that personal attention can make people feel special.

This is not a perfect book. As always Seth can be by turns insightful and annoying. He has a self-confessed tendency to hyperbole and some of the case studies are a bit flaky. Overall though this is a great book and I thoroughly recommend it.

Oh yes and the title of the book? Well it's simple. If you were driving along in the countryside and you saw a cow that was purple instead of the usual brown or black and white ones, that would be remarkable wouldn't it? You'd probably tell someone about it when you arrived home: "hey you'll never guess what I saw - a purple cow!" That's what customers say about remarkable products.

#Twitternovels version of this review: Don't be boring. Playing safe is risky. You must be remarkable - you must be a Purple Cow

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

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