Milk it, Baby: Godin’s Reflections on Purple Cow


As usual, I’m energized after reading another lucid marketing book by Seth Godin. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable is sure to be a bestseller after the initial self-publishing publicity stunt phase graduates to the major publisher waiting in the wings. (Amazon mentions a May release date.)

I wrote Godin to thank him for this latest, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the whyfores and what-fors of purple cows.

Traffick: Seth, your new book, Purple Cow, ships in 12-packs for USD $60. 12 small paperbacks are each packed in a distinctive-looking purple cow milk carton. Clearly this is not the usual method of selling a book, and clearly you’ve done it to make a point about being remarkable, and the 11 extra books don’t hurt from a viral marketing standpoint. My question is – what type of person do you expect will be inclined to jump at this type of offer?

SG: Well, the main purpose was to demonstrate what the book was about—that getting the people who really care to spread the word is way smarter than trying to reach everyone. If you care enough to spend $60, I figured you really care! Apparently, I was right about this group, since we sold out the entire supply of bulk orders in about six days. Who bought them? The kind of person that’s always pushing their organization to try harder, do better, take more chances (that aren’t really chances!)

Traffick:  Is Google a Purple Cow? Why?

SG: It was. Every purple cow fades unless it figures out how to be remarkable again. Google runs the risk of being just a very good utility unless they start aggressively developing flankers. Google news was an example of that. It may not catch on… That’s okay, as long as they don’t stop trying.

Traffick:  When did Seth Godin first decide that it was more important to be remarkable than merely “good”?

SG: Well, the idea for the book came from a record label I run. I found that many unsigned musicians spent huge amounts of time trying to be like the folks on the radio. I explained to an artist that very good meant nothing. Very good was invisible. Either be horrible or amazing.

Traffick:  Do you think the next venture capital boom will prioritize its investment differently, putting more money into what makes something worth talking about, rather than spending it all on loud, empty chest-beating? Why was the “smart money” so dumb last time around?

SG: I think it’s natural for people who are trying to build or run a big company to like the idea of “big advertising.” It matches the factory mindset. There will be a next round of VC, of course, but I don’t know if media is going to be the focus for a long time. In other words, the tech VCs, having been burned, seem ready to get more techy, not less.

Traffick:  Do you think there is a chance that captains of the North American auto industry will read and comprehend what’s in your book? Or am I still going to be buying a Honda or an Infiniti ten years from now because of what’s under the hood?

SG: Oh, a LOT of my books are already at GM, etc. The challenge for them is not to get it, it’s to do it. It costs a billion dollars to develop a new car, and there’s huge inertia to be very good…

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