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Purple Cow is probably the most overrated business book published in 2003.
Let me save you money and time. Read the summary below rather than buying and reading this book:
Marketing should begin with a differentiated product or service that gets attention (like a purple cow does among a field of brown ones). Be sure that those who care deeply about that differentiation learn about your product or service (as Krispy Kreme does by providing free donuts when it opens a new store). Those who care will e-mail and tell everyone they know (the ideavirus concept Mr. Godin has written about before). Keep adding new differentiated enhancements to your product or service (pretty soon you don't find a purple cow so interesting). Start looking for totally new business models that provide a breakthrough like your first purple cow did. Don't waste your time and money on advertising. Alternatively, it's dangerous not to do this because your product or service will be lost among all of the other brown cows (undifferentiated offerings).
I congratulate Mr. Godin on his marketing skill. Turning these few old saws with a few new examples into a best seller is outstanding marketing. Otherwise, I would grade this book as a one star effort. It will only be of value to those who have never read anything about the power of business model innovation. To learn how to do successful business model innovation, you will have to look elsewhere. I was particularly disappointed that he relied on examples that are so old. Starbucks, HBO and Krispy Kreme, for instance, haven't done a business model innovation in years. Only the JetBlue example is recent. Yet the world is full of new examples he could have talked about.
Actually, the book's key metaphor is flawed. While a purple cow (like the title and cover of this book) will certainly get your attention (and may get you to spend a few dollars to investigate it), is there really anyone out there who wants an actual purple cow because it provides any value other than uniqueness? The example reminds me of the old-time professional wrestler, Gorgeous George, who always wore purple and used that color in everything he owned (including his car and turkeys on his ranch near Yucaipa, California). Yes, the purple attracted your attention . . . but unless you liked his wrestling, that one glance was the end of it. I remember driving to his ranch to see a purple turkey, but never went back. Actually, the charity cows that are painted and decorated by different artists and then auctioned off in different cities would have made a better metaphor for this book.
Like much of what pretends to be new and different in business books today, this book is simply dressed up on modern clothes and new terms. I suggest you read Strategy Maps, the Innovator's Solution and Corporate Creativity if you want to learn how create these changes successfully in a company.
As I finished the book, I began to realize that much of what is wrong with business gurus today is that they love to tell their own ideas . . . but are seldom willing to do the hard work necessary to locate and measure how to do what they espouse. It made me realize that I should always "walk my talk to teaching people how to do what I encourage them to do."
1414 comments643 of 695 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 14, 2003
Cutesy . . . disjointed . . . reads like a monologue . . . powerful . . . simplistic. It's all true. I don't think that author Seth Godin would argue with many of the comments that even the negative reviewers have made here.
My advice is to simply understand what you're getting into with this one. Looking for some light reading that might fire off some creative synapses? Got a few hours on a plane & the ability to take some thought-starters and generate your own applications? This book is for you.
And yes, it is geared towards creative types. Or at least someone who's willing to let a simple, fun book with lots of colorful case studies get the juices flowing.
Interesting that there's such a binary ranking system with this book. Most readers seem to either love it or hate it. Are you a serious executive looking for practical ways to transform? Start with Good to Great by Jim Collins.
Looking for something more unique, but still thick with practical ways to transform a business in a huge way? Try Winning in FastTime by John Warden.
Purple Cow is fun, simple, and powerful. There's practically nothing that's been written in these reviews that I don't agree with. But some of are fortunate enough to have an equal balance between left-brain and right-brain.
This book MAY not be for you, but it was for me.
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on December 17, 2003
I have never met this guy Seth Godin, but I know this guy. I have worked with and gone to school with people just like this Seth Character. They like to say provactive things like "Marketing is Dead" and come up with catch phrases (Sneezers) that seems to gain them immediate attention. However, when you start analyzing what has been written the realization quickly hits home that nothing has been said at all. Merely Vapor-ware or in this case Vapor-ideas.
For those of us who look back at that phrase and to the whole Dot.Com era and cringe at the foolishness of people who were trying to rewrite the rules of business with their gimmickry and catch phrases, I present you Purple Cow. For this book is to Marketing what the DotCom era was to Business, which is in a word a BUST.
I also like that fact that most of the people that praised the book on the back cover, were coincidentally the very same people that Seth praised in his book for having that special Purple Cow quality...(How about a catch phrase of my own)...I guess this book will appeal to some people, but I guess I am just Lactose intolerant...Ha
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on January 14, 2004
This is a not highly originally book which is apparently using a gimmicky title and cover to make itself stand out. I'm not sure why because Seth Godin has written better books and it's not like he necessarily needs to go the gimmicky "look-at-me, look-at-me" route to sell books.
All Godin has done here is write a book on branding an positioning. Godin is trying very hard here to sell us on the idea that what he suggests is new and different and that the old ways of marketing do not work. Hate to tell him this, but talk to people who are genuinely out there fighting for customers in the marketplace and you find that the old ways still work quite well. P&G has managed to stay pretty successful (not that they don't have an occasional bump in the road) sticking to a tired-and-true marketing formula, as have many other companies.
This book is simply about product or service differentiation that attracts attention (as a purple cow in a field of brown ones would). It's not necessarily new and different, and some of his example s may well be flawed. For example, JetBlue is a marvelous success (and I wish that would come to our part of the country), but all they did was build on the Southwest Airlines template for success. JetBlue also had the marked advantage of being one of the best financed start-ups in airline history. I think their success is more the result of good management more than anything else. And for the most part, Godin seems to use examples of companies that are now well-established in the marketplace, e.g., Starbucks, HBO and Krispy Kreme. While I think he's use of JetBlue does not necessarily support his premise, at least it is a relatively new entity. Why did he not use more examples of newer companies? Would that not have supported his "Purple Cow" premise more readily? Too much of what Godin is writing about here is reminiscent of the internet boom and busts, where so many companies were simply about an eye-catching marketing idea rather than a good business plan and business model.
That is an essential flaw in the overall premise also. Just standing out is not enough to make a company profitable and successful. Corporate history is replete with companies that stood out and then quickly flamed out. A company still needs to be well managed and actually have a product or service people are interested in. Godin has written better books with better ideas. This one simply seems to be based on a gimmick with little substantive evidence behind it.
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on August 9, 2005
It seems to me that the reviewers that rated this book poorly either:

1 - Read a lot of marketing books and assume a lot of what they have read is common knowledge

2 - Have never created a prodcut that actually ships, sells and turns a profit (and also fought the battles to create a winning product)

There are many subtle points in this book that are radical ideas to many marketing and engineering organizations. e.g "Marketers No Longer: Now We're Designers". Having marketing intimately involved in the product specification?? This is uneard of in most engineering organizations -- but of the only winning product I created/managed, this is exactly what we did.

I doubt many Sand Hill VCs would feel comfortable with a business plan that focuses on the inovaters and early adopters as a key to success. But that is exactly what a lot of this book is about and it takes several examples for non-marketing types like myself for it to become clear.

If this books observations are correct, and you are creating a new product/service - and - you are not already enlightened to the new workd of marketing, this quick read can save you a lot of time and money and help align your team.
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on May 14, 2003
Okay, I admit - I've read all Seth's books.
I was an early admirer of "Permission Marketing".
I liked "Survival Is Not Enough".
But... you could hand "Purple Cow" to someone who had never marketed a business, and if they followed the principles contained in the book I have no doubt they would succeed.
I've been in the advertising and marketing business for over 20 years, and I don't usually have nice things to say about "marketing books" - because they're usually very near worthless.
"Purple Cow" should be on the shelf of every person who is involved in any kind of marketing.
Seth has the ability to take the very complex and make it seem so simple one is tempted to ask, "Well why didn't I think of that before? It's so obvious!"
Get the book. Get several. Give them to your staff, your clients, your colleagues. They'll think you're a genius.
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on August 11, 2003
What a waste of money. This book does nothing but ask questions that youve probably already asked yourself. He gives you no guidance on how to find the solutions your looking for, or how to become "remarkable". His only advice is basically "Just keep trying".... thanks.
It really seems like he ripped off doug halls "jump start your business brain". Except, in Dougs book he offers you an answer, and stratagies to creating your own new unique, remarkable ideas. Purple cow does none of this.
Its 130 pages of pure "I wish i had my [money] back"
Save your [money] and check out
Kellog on Marketing
Oligilvy on Advertising
Jump Start Your Business Brain (if your looking for real information on making your business unique)
0Comment35 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 8, 2003
Seth Godin is the most astute marketer of the last 10 years. His latest book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable arrives at just the right time to save the corporate world from ruin.
Hyperbole? Not at all.
As an adjunct professor in a nearby university, I have the privilege of teaching the principles of direct marketing and advertising to the next generation of adcats and DM pros. I base a lot of my class lectures on both personal experience (I've been a direct marketing guru for nearly 15 years) and cutting edge books -- especially those from Seth Godin.
What I like most about Seth Godin (in addition to his witty, insightful style of writing) is that he walks his talk...and doesn't bother to sugar coat what's going on in the world today. He tells it like it is. Or, more accurately, how it should be.
Seth is right: This is the most challenging time in history to be part of the American workforce.
Recent news reports reveal the unemployment rate (at 6.4%) to be the highest in nine years. But the fault doesn't lie with The White House.
Companies these days are actually more interested in playing it safe than in reaching for the stars. Ditto for employees. Remarkable ones aren't getting hired any more. Ones that "fit in" are. (Remarkable ones are routinely shown the door.)
The result is an endless parade of boring products, services, and employees.
And let's not overlook Hollywood. Or the whiney music industry.
Both churn out such bland tripe that they seem bent on drowning the world in a sea of mediocrity. So they have no one to blame but themselves if sales are down.
Enter the Purple Cow.
Seth's message is simple: BE REMARKABLE.
That's it. He calls on companies to be unique and exciting. He calls on employees to be extraordinary, to think big thoughts, to stand out.
Here's a personal example. I put the principles of Seth's book to work in my own advertising agency. When I started PurpleCrayon Direct earlier this year, I aimed for a target audience roughly the same as every other agency...and got literally zero reponse.
So I stepped back, rethought my strategy, and relaunched PurpleCrayon Direct to a completely new and unique audience: Artists. We now work with painters, musicians, actors, writers, sculptors, dancers, poets -- anyone who makes his or her living (or would like to) as an Artist with a capital "A."
And it worked. Big time. The buzz has been amazing.
So I know from observing society (and talking to friends out of work and looking for jobs) that America is in trouble. Forced sameness is crippling the human spirit and destroying hope.
But I know from personal experience what the answer is: BE REMARKABLE.
Thanks to Seth Godin's latest book, I'm more excited than ever before about my professional life. I may still go down in flames with my agency. But at least I'll go down giving it my best shot, being true to myself and to my clients.
I highly recommend Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.
It worked for me. It'll work for you, too.
22 comments34 of 40 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 30, 2003
This book is as vacuous and superificial as its cutesey title. With much swagger and self promotion, but scant substance and a dirth of new ideas. Be different, stand out, the author admonishes, without ever saying how. There is simply no there there. Its about as meaningful, helpful and deep as a thin coat of purple paint. A poor show!
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on September 19, 2005
I think most readers, like me, already know the importance to make a product remarkable, innovative and outstanding (a purple cow in a group of brown) so as to differentiate it from the sea of competitors. What we want is the means to do it. It's disappointing that the author focused on the "why"s with many not so "accurate" or "relevant" examples and counter-examples, but failed to deliver the "how"s as promised on the book title: to transform and to be remarkable. He kept on criticizing the common 4Ps and the TV ad push type marketing, but couldnt bring out something new, systematic and practical for managers to follow, especially those who work in big corps where red tape had choked most of the innovation process. I am sorry to say this book simply lacks substance but is full of cliche. Unless marketing, customer-orientation and differentiation is something new to you, I am quite sure you will get the same opinion as mine if you can finish reading it.
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