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Purple Cow Book Summary: Another P of Marketing

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Initially, we were introduced to 4Ps of marketing, later it changed to 7Ps of marketing, where a few additional P’s were added.

These act as one of the most important topic that any marketing student learns in either undergrad or postgrad.


The book ‘Purple Cow by Seth Godin’ introduces another P of marketing, that is, the Purple Cow.


Imagine a road trip to a farmhouse, on the way you might see a herd of cattle, there might be some black cows, some white…maybe some brown as well.

You wouldn’t pay much attention to either of them, but imagine seeing a Purple Cow in the herd!

Now that will definitely grab your attention because it's unique.

Watch the YouTube video


This is what the book talks about, if your products are black, white, or brown cows, you cannot expect consumers to react.

You need to create something exceptional for them to stop-stare-react, something like a Purple Cow.


The book divides the scenario into three eras:

1. Before Advertising

This was the time when word of mouth communication worked really well to sell your products.

Brick and mortar system was used to increase sales


2. During Advertising

We were introduced to some form of advertising here, where the wealthiest companies would take that extra effort to give their brands more visibility.

Consumers in this era were still receptive to the advertisements


3. After Advertising

This is the era we are living in now when it’s time to look beyond.

When advertising is not an add on, it’s a must.

And precisely because of this, consumers are bombarded to the extent, that they just don't care anymore.

The probability of consumers reacting to a print ad is far lesser than a word of mouth communication coming through a friend or family member.


Given below are my top 5 learnings from the book, with some brand examples who have benefited from them:


1. Advertising is losing its power because it’s so abundant

The book states that mass media is redundant.

Consumers are extremely picky when it comes to choosing a product or reacting to an advertisement.

When a consumer needs to buy a car, he will acknowledge the full-page print ads, otherwise, he will turn a blind eye.

I believe this precisely why the concept of targeted ads was introduced.

When you search for a product on amazon, google tracks your search and targets ads around that same product that you may be exposed to on your Facebook feed or general google search.

Say as a marketing manager you buy a television ad spot.

Now it would be aired on a show that has good TRP ratings, so your ad will be seen by a mass of people, agreed.

But, only a fraction of these people will pay attention to your ad, only a small part of this fraction will actually end up buying your product.


The perfect example of this can be products that are already targeted towards specific consumers.

Zivame is a lingerie brand, I have been exposed to a lot of their ads on Social Media. Zivame has ensured to track their consumers, so whenever I shop for any of the products that Zivame offers, I come across their ads on YouTube or Facebook.

They are specifically targeting me, because they know I am interested.


Zivame example for Purple Cow
Image Source: Behance.net

2. To stand out in the modern world, your product needs to be remarkable

This is the most important learning I gained from this book.

Most of us feel marketing is about communicating what your product offers.

Well, in fact, marketing starts with the development of the product itself.

How often do you see a product which is not good, but advertised very well, succeed in the long run?

It's quite rare!

Because one of the crucial things that determines the success of a brand- is repeat purchases.

You need to ensure your product is remarkable.


Let’s take an example of one of my favorite shopping sites- The Souled Store.

The whole trend of message t-shirts was started by them.

Did the marketing start after the product was made?

No, in fact, a lot of marketing is included while designing the product itself, right from understanding the demand for a particular t-shirt- which sitcom or tv series has a good amount of fan following?

What possible designs can come up for these TV series?

A lot of things are taken into account, thanks to which the result is a remarkable product.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Image Source: thesouledstore.com

3. Taking risks is better than avoiding risks altogether

Most companies are reluctant to take risks, to try something new.

Will the audience be receptive to my new campaign?

What if I get criticism and my market share falls down?

Isn't it better to stick to what is tried and tested?

You cannot answer these questions unless you have taken any risks!

There is no place for a boring product in the modern world.

In the crowded market place, not standing out is equal to being invisible.


An apt example of this can be the Dove Real Beauty campaign. When all the beauty brands have always been focussed towards promoting an idealized version of beauty. Dove decided to stand apart, and portray something that made a lot more sense concerning beauty. Of course, it was a risk for a brand as big as Dove to come up with something like this because you can never be sure of audience reaction. However, the campaign worked really well for them.

4. Your focus needs to be consumers who are willing to buy and at the same time, are willing to talk about it

Now typically consumers are divided into the following categories:

a. Innovators- People who are eager to try out new things

b. Early Adopters- People who are interested in new products because they want to have that extra advantage wherever possible

c. Early & Late majorities- People who adopt proven products because many are already using them

d. Laggards- People who are reluctant to try anything new and will only buy something if it’s necessary


We must aim to target our products to the early adopters.

These may not be the majority, but in the long run, these people have immense power to spread the word about your product.

In the advertising clutter, we can definitely expect word of mouth communication to have an upper hand.


If you ever have some free time on hand, check out YouTube and the various mobile review channels.

I am saying this out of my own experience, before purchasing any mobile phone- the first thing I do is check out its review on YouTube.

Now if your product is a mobile phone, the best strategy is to target these people who already have a great fan following and make them promote your product.

Geeky Ranjit- Purple Cow example
Image Source: YouTube.com

5. Many companies fear criticism, ridicule, and change that being remarkable would bring

There are pros and cons to everything.

As I have always mentioned, you can conduct extensive market research but your product can still fail.

But criticism doesn’t mean failure- if you are different, people are bound to notice, some may like you, some may not.

That’s inevitable.

However, the criticism might still lead to publicity.

We have seen that in the case of the Trivago guy.

If you stop yourself from experimenting, you are also letting go of the possibility that your product might work.


Let’s look at an example of HUL Surf Excel ad, here

Now, this created a controversy where people thought it's promoting the importance of Namaz over the celebration of Holi.

A lot of people took to Twitter to express their discomfort.

This is bound to happen when you try to do something different, you cannot gauge the audience reaction.

But because of this criticism, a huge set of the audience even found out about this campaign and appreciated it.

People started looking at it from the view of finding a fault but instead loved the ad!


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