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But the truth of the matter is, the four Ps are outdated.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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5 reasons why the Anniversary Sale is a marketing success

Today was not just the premiere of the last Harry Potter movie, but also the official start of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. The Anniversary Sale is held every July and “has become legendary among Nordstrom customers nationwide.” It is the only sale I know of that puts items on sale when they are brand new (before the season even starts!). Frequent Nordstrom shoppers who have either the store credit card or debit card receive early access to the sale a week prior.

As someone who has finally earned early access, you might think why would I attend the first official day of the sale if I’ve already shopped it? But my mom and I do, every year. There’s an aura about the Anniversary Sale that you just can’t miss out on it. Thousands of people (mainly women) trek to Nordy’s doors as early as 7am to get first dibs on sale items.

While walking through the store today for my umpteenth Anniversary Sale, I found myself thinking about what a marketing success the Sale truly is. Here’s why:

1) Quality product – Nordstrom brings brand new, next season products to their stores purposely to mark them down. Who else does this, other than as an after-thought to compete with Nordstrom?

2) Close relationships with vendors – Particularly in the make-up department, the Sale offers dozens of brand name cosmetics packages at incredible prices. For instance, a Bare Escentuals gift box containing 9 items is on sale for $49, with a normal retail of $122. Nordstrom works specifically with their vendors to accomplish this, as Bare Escentuals doesn’t offer this gift box in their own stores.

3) Efficient operations – Nordy’s has done this sale for so many years that they have mastered customer management. Despite the fact the store is bombarded with people, the employees manage to keep the store spotless and there is always someone to assist you. They have an organized system for dressing rooms, employees are well-educated on the items that appear in the catalogue, and heck, even the Nordstrom Cafe employees are on top of their game.

4) Hype – Not only does Nordstrom draw in massive crowds to the sale, but they create an incredible hype about it as well. First, the Anniversary Catalogue. This is mailed out several weeks before and gets customers excited and talking. My Twitter feed has been abuzz with #NSale hashtags for the past two weeks or so. Second, the Early Access portion. Although some may deem it “snobby,” Early Access only encourages the pre-sale hype. And it definitely helps clear out crowds for the opening weekend (minus my mom and I).

5) “Spend to save” attitude – What better way to get customers to spend money than to convince them they are saving money? This is where foolproof marketing comes in. Granted, it doesn’t always work, but it’s pretty darn smart. Case in point – just the other day I was shopping at Michael’s for scrapbook materials. I was just about ready to leave when I realized that a certain brand of stickers were 40% off. “Forty-percent off?! That’s a BARGAIN,” I thought to myself. So naturally, I left the store spending more than I had intended to, but I was saving in the long run. Right? Nordstrom masters this saving mantra better than any other sale I know. A) The clothes are brand new season and will be marked UP in two weeks, therefore you buy now or miss out. B) Back-to-school is one of the most popular shopping times for clothes. Combine A+B, and you’ve got two great reasons to spend a ton now to save a ton later. Guilty as charged.