Book review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
– David Packard

Before reading Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, I wouldn’t have fully understood this quote. But 165 pages later, this statement takes on a whole new meaning.

Marketing was traditionally thought of in terms of the 4 Ps—price, place, product, and promotion. In fact, that’s what my high school teacher taught me in my Intro to Marketing/DECA course and what my current boss likes to refer to.

But the truth of the matter is, the four Ps are outdated. Long gone. In today’s post-consumerist world, where choices and technology abound, this way of thinking won’t do the trick.

Purple Cow explains in depth, with parts I’ll have to cover later, the concept of a fifth P, or the “Purple Cow.” This is the ingredient that makes your product remarkable. Godin writes in the beginning pages of his book:

Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service. Not slapping on marketing as a last-minute add-on, but understanding that if your offering itself isn’t remarkable, it’s invisible.

So, going back to Packard’s quote, marketing is MORE than the marketing department. The process begins straight from the drawing board, in the very beginnings of a product. All the way from invention to selling.

The best example I can think of is Apple (quite appropriate, considering Steve Jobs’ resignation announcement earlier today). Apple products are known for their innovative quality—top of the line technology, sleek design, a multitude of colors—the list goes on and on. They have succeeded, time and time again, in creating Purple Cow products. Products that do the talking themselves, products that people actively seek out, products worth talking about.

It is my belief, after reading this book, that if you create a truly remarkable product, there is no need for advertising. But combine some great advertising with a great product, as Apple also does so well (Exhibit A), and you’ve really hit it out of the ballpark.

Now I am left wondering, how many marketers in the world have adopted this philosophy since the release of Godin’s book in 2002? My high school sure didn’t, and neither did my boss. It will be interesting to see what approach my marketing professors at UO take. Until then, I plan to spread this idea to my peers in the American Marketing Association and get their feedback. What’s yours?

[Cross-posted to the UO AMA blog]


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