3 min read

Purple Cow by Seth Godin - Summary and Book Notes

Seth Godin's treatise on the need to be remarkable in today's economy.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin


Seth Godin conveys his ideas in a clear, convincing manner. And his ideas are great. He pulls no punches about the death of traditional advertising, and outlines the only remaining viable path: be remarkable. The book is full of actionable takeaways you could apply to your product or company structure right now.

Like all sales books that cover contemporary companies, there are some examples that are funny in retrospect--he surmises that there won't be much more innovation in phones, just a few years before the iphone was released. But the concepts still ring true even today.

This is a must read for anyone involved in making or selling.

Buy Purple Cow on Amazon or check it out at your library.


Super Quick Summary

If you want growth, you must be remarkable (be a purple cow). Aim your product at the small subset of people who are really passionate about something. They will advertise for you. If your product makes it mainstream, take profits and reinvest in finding the next purple cow.

Quick Notes

The following are rough notes I took while reading. These are mostly paraphrased or quoted directly from the book.

If your product isn't remarkable, it's invisible

Remarkable ideas diffuse quicker over the internet

The world has more choices and less time to sort them all out

Traditional advertising doesn't work anymore (we're all better at ignoring it)

It is safer to be risky

If a product's future is unremarkable, take profits and reinvest them in building something new.

No one is going to eagerly adapt to your product

Design a product remarkable enough to attract early adopters -- but is flexible enough that those adopters can spread the idea

A brand is an idea. Ideas that spread are more likely to succeed.

Sneezers: early adopters who tell their colleagues about new products

It is useless to advertise to anyone (except interested sneezers with influence)

Why aren't you cheating? Create an unfair advantage for your company

Find the group that's most profitable. Find the group that's most likely to sneeze. Ignore the rest

The Purple Cow is rare because people are afraid. Being remarkable invites criticism.

You are not the project. Criticism of the project is not criticism of you.

You can't predict a successful project.

Boring always leads to failure

Find out what's not working, and kill it. (Fail fast)

When you have a success:

  • Milk the cow
  • Create an environment where you can invent the next Purple Cow

"Very good" is not remarkable

When a committee gets involved, each participant sands off the rough edges. The result is boring

Find the market niche first, then make the product

How to find a cow: Go for the edges.

The marketing is the product, and vice-versa

Real growth comes with products that annoy, offend, don't appeal, are too expensive, too cheap, too heavy, too complicated, too simple -- too something.

If someone is in charge of creating a new Purple Cow, leave them alone!

Be obsessed about your product, or get inside the heads of people who are.

Create a culture of aggressively prototyping new products

Outrageous is not always remarkable, sometimes it's just annoying

What would happen if you told the truth? (This product isn't a good match for you. Our product is unhealthy for you and should only be enjoyed rarely.

Cheap only works if you can make a quantum-leap in pricing.

Career: The path to lifetime job security is to be remarkable.

10 product launches for $10MM each > 1 product launch for $100MM

Think of the smallest conceivable market, and describe a product that overwhelms it with its remarkablility.

Don't Be Boring

Safe Is Risky

Buy Purple Cow on Amazon  or check it out at your library.

Growth Hacker Marketing - Ryan Holiday -- Where Purple Cow talks about the need to be remarkable, Growth Hacker Marketing talks about how the tactics used to grow your cow quickly and with a small budget.