“This book is about the why, the what, and the how of remarkable.”
Quotes from the book
Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be perfect cows, attractive cows, cows with great personalities, cows lit by beautiful light, but they’re still boring. A Purple Cow, though. Now that would be interesting. (For a while.)
The post-consumption consumer is out of things to buy. We have what we need, we want very little, and we’re too busy to spend a lot of time researching something you’ve worked hard to create for us.
Most people can’t buy your product. Either they don’t have the money, they don’t have the time, or they don’t want it.
Years ago, our highly productive economy figured out how to satisfy almost everyone’s needs. Then the game changed – it was all about satisfying our wants. The marketing community taught us (with plenty of TV advertising) to want more and more, and consumers did their best to keep up.
Consumers were kids in the candy store; they had pockets filled with shiny money and they had a real desire to buy stuff. We shopped on TV and we shopped in stores. We were in a hurry and we wanted to fill our houses, our fridges, and our garages.
Of course, it’s not just TV that’s fading. It’s newspapers and magazines – any form of media interrupting any form of consumer activity. Individuals and businesses have ceased to pay attention.
The reason it’s so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken – it’s no longer remarkable when you do it.
Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about. One of the best excuses your colleagues will come up with, though, is that they don’t have the ability to find the great idea, or if they do, they don’t know how to distinguish the great idea from the lousy ideas.
Instead of trying to use your technology and expertise to make a better product for your users’ standard behavior, experiment with inviting the users to change their behavior to make the product work dramatically better.
It is useless to advertise to anyone (except interested sneezers with influence).
When faced with a market in which no one is listening, the smartest plan is usually to leave. Plan B is to have the insight and guts to go after a series of Purple Cows, to launch a product/service/promotional offering that somehow gets (the right) people to listen.
Differentiate your customers. Find the group that’s most profitable. Find the group that’s most likely to sneeze. Figure out how to develop/advertise/reward either group. Ignore the rest. Your ads (and your products!) shouldn’t cater to the masses. Your ads (and products) should cater to the customers you’d choose if you could choose your customers.
There may be a lot of consumers out there, but they’re busy consumers, and it’s just easier to go with the winner. (Of course, this is true only until the “winner” stops being interesting – and then, whether it’s cars, beer, or magazines, a new leader emerges.)
If you’re remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise – ever. The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.
We run our schools like factories. We line kids up in straight rows, put them in batches (called grades), and work very hard to make sure there are no defective parts. Nobody standing out, falling behind, running ahead, making a ruckus.
So it seems that we face two choices: to be invisible, anonymous, uncriticized, and safe, or to take a chance at greatness, uniqueness, and the Cow.
We often respond to our aversion to criticism by hiding, avoiding the negative feedback, and thus (ironically) guaranteeing that we won’t succeed! If the only way to cut through is to be remarkable, and the only way to avoid criticism is to be boring and safe, well, that’s quite a choice, isn’t it?
The problem with people who would avoid a remarkable career is that they never end up as the leader. They decide to work for a big company, intentionally functioning as an anonymous drone, staying way back to avoid risk and criticism. If they make a mistake and choose the wrong bird to follow, they lose.
Measurement means admitting what’s broken so you can fix it.
Ideas that are remarkable are much more likely to spread than ideas that aren’t. Yet so few brave people make remarkable stuff. Why? I think it’s because they think that the opposite of “remarkable” is “bad” or “mediocre” or “poorly done.” Thus, if they make something very good, they confuse it with being virus-worthy. Yet this is not a discussion about quality at all.
If you do nothing, at least you’re not going to short-circuit your existing consumer networks by loading them up with a lot of indefensible junk. When you do nothing, your sneezers can still trumpet the original cool stuff that made you popular in the first place. The constant “refreshing” of your line with ever more mediocre messaging and products just makes it harder for your few remaining fans to spread the word.
The cost of ignoring the innovation would be felt immediately on the
If you were looking to this book for a plan, I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t have one. I do, however, have a process. A system that has no given tactics but is as good as any. The system is pretty simple: Go for the edges. Challenge yourself and your team to describe what those edges are (not that you’d actually go there), and then test which edge is most likely to deliver the marketing and financial results you seek.
It’s a lot easier to sell something that people are already in the mood to buy.
If a company is failing, it is the fault of the most senior management, and the problem is probably this: They’re running a company, not marketing a product.
Cheap is a lazy way out of the battle for the Purple Cow. Cheap is the last refuge of a product developer or marketer who is out of great ideas.
If you’re thinking about being a Purple Cow, the time to do it is when you’re not looking for a job.
You don’t need passion to create a Purple Cow. Nor do you need an awful lot of creativity. What you need is the insight to realize that you have no other choice but to grow your business or launch your product with Purple thinking. Nothing else is going to work.
Almost everything you don’t do has no good reason for it. Almost everything you don’t do is the result of fear or inertia or a historical lack of someone asking, “Why not?”