Archive for the ‘Marketing Book Reviews’ Category

Author: Seth Godin and The Group of 33

Place: England

Publisher: Penguin books Ltd

Publication date: 2008

Edition: Special edition

184 Pages

Price: R154 (at Exclusive Books, Stellenbosch)

ISBN: 978-0-141-03645-8


What does it truly take to make your business absolutely remarkable?

This is the main question that Seth Godin and the team of 33 award winning business writers tackle in this book.

What is the next step after a Purple Cow (something “remarkable” that makes you/your business stand out) has been created? You need the good word-of-mouth to spread… After becoming so noteworthy, how do you succeed in getting people start talking about you? We need a Big Moo: an innovation or new idea that will add to the “remarkableness” of your business. It is no longer enough just to “be good” in today’s competitive environment. According to the book’s synopsis, “… sometimes you need something even bigger than a purple cow. You need a big moo — an insight so astounding that people can’t help but remark on it.”

This book is not only “remarkable” because of its unusual approach towards modern marketing strategies and making use of a pithy, racy and clear writing style… furthermore: 100% of the profits made on this book is given to charity! No THAT is something worth noticing and truly remarkable/memorable.

Written by Seth Godin in collaboration with 33 other renowned business forward thinkers and best selling authors in their own right, The Big Moo focuses on convincing and inspiring its readers to be daring, to go the extra mile, to take a risk (not as risky as not risking The Big Moo) and to let go of their traditional ways of thought to embrace being “exceptional”. What makes this book exceptional is also the fact that 33 writers composed it… making for a compilation of different writing styles, different viewpoints and different experiences (but all centralized around the concept of creating “something that is worth talking about – the Big Moo). It is, however a bit frustrating not knowing which author wrote which section, but then again, it might have been to distracting from the flow of stories (interrupting the reader to focus on the writer instead of the message). The essence of this book is not to glorify the well-renowned writers who wrote it, but to collectively strengthen the goal of motivating marketers and businesses to take a leap of faith and create a Big Moo after they have succeeded in creating a Purple Cow.

The Big Moo is packed (like the Purple Cow) with real-life case studies that “sticks” to the reader’s mind and illustrate what power of success a good Big Moo can provide for a business (or what Big Failure can result when NOT investing in creating the Big Moo). The stories it tells read very easily and differ from each other, yet they are all thematically similar. Each one of these stories is written to drive a specific “take-home” message to the reader. Seeing that one of the main characteristics of a good “sticky” message (in advertising) is “storytelling” (because our brains remember and can easily visualize story-sequences to recall again in the future); this is a very good tactic utilized by the authors to dive their messages home.

Some of the most inspiring pieces to me is the story of the how the Berlin Wall fell:

“This was the biggest change any of us will probably ever see in our lifetime. It took a month, it cost nothing, and it started with a handful of people in a town now one would ever have pegged as the birthplace of a revolution.


Remember that the next time someone says, ‘It can’t be done’.”

To any reader, marketer who embraces forward-thinking and like to be challenged in the conventional way of marketing, this book (like Seth Godin’s other books) will guarantee a fascinating and thought-provoking read. The book encourages one to proactively consider one’s own business situation and ways in which one could start to make it “remarkable”. As you read through the book, it is irresistible to grab a pen and notebook and start jotting down a view ideas and concepts of your own. What Seth and his team of writers succeed in here (once again) is to activate the motivation to react… to start by considering your options if you were to decide to embrace the Big Moo theory. The first step of change starts in your mind, the way you think.

This can be illustrated by the following section of the book called “Ten Things Smart Start-Ups Know”:

  1. Failure is an Option
  2. Bravery is Contagious
  3. Invent the Market
  4. Customers are Last (and First)
  5. Rule Books are Dispensable
  6. Grind Coffee Not People
  7. Test for Kool-Aid
  8. Always On
  9. Fire the CEO


One of the most memorable parts illustrates that the conventional “rule of the bigger the better” does NOT always apply when it comes to creating a successful business and sustaining that success level: in the story called “Don’t be like Pete”:

“Pete runs a print shop. He’s been in the same location for fifty-two years. He loves what he does and he’s good at it. All the local real estate agents, teachers, and businesspeople rave about Pete’s place… He loves his customers, and his customers love him.

Two years ago, Pete decided it was time to expand. ‘Print on demand is just the thing to move us into the Internet age. We’ll be just like Kinko’s!’ he declared.

Pete’s customers weren’t very happy. No more coffee. No more chats. No more chocolate-chip cookies. Pete’s problem was that he wanted to be like someone else, when what made him remarkable in the first place was just being himself. Had Pete asked his customers about his idea first, he would have saved himself tens of thousands of dollars and dozens of longtime customers.


Your customers are your best advisers.”


The application of this message in your own business: Status quo is not always the best option for YOUR situation. Copying what others do to make them successful does not make you remarkable, it makes you a copy. Embracing the things that your loyal customers value most about your business, and reacting on their suggestions… now thát is your golden ticket (I could not resist a bit of Charlie’s Chocolate Factory magic in this one!).


It is an entertaining read packed with thought provoking insights that can be applied in practice. Even though the different stories are not chronologically organized in a way that leads up to a coherent point, it succeeds at providing a piece of “remarkable” knowledge to almost any browser. This actually makes the book even more interesting and useful seeing that different stories in it can be used as a reference again later in the future (without having to read the entire book to find a particular take-home message).

One might wonder if the simple (almost child-like) writing style is suitable for a business book at its core? Well, consider reading a book like this; written with the main intentions to inspire, provoke thoughts/ideas, and to convince readers; if it was written in a complex, intellectual and formal fictional writing style?

Some might say that this book is merely an extension of the Purple Cow, and that we have already heard it all. However, I believe that we should view this book in as a companion of Purple Cow, and does NOT serve as an improvement of its precursor. This mixture of unrelated stories (not indicating who wrote what) provides more reassurance and lessons that are applicable and realistic as a way of supporting the first book, the Purple Cow, which was the first to introduce this type of radical “get out of your comfort zone” approach to successful marketing. In theory, everything stated and illustrated in the Purple Cow and the Big Moo is bound to lead to success. But in practice, it is a very terrifying thought to expect of big, established companies to suddenly change all their traditional ways of conducting business and marketing. Seth needs to emphasize and push motivation just to cause conventional marketers to consider “what if I could help make my business more remarkable?”     

As written in the Editorial Review From Publishers Weekly (on Amazon.com):


            “Some writers note that competent imitation of proven ideas is often a better strategy

than innovation… and that hard work and paying your dues does pay off.”

I completely agree with this statement: what makes an inspirational read on business very difficult is that there are no recipes of success to follow and no guarantees. One can merely inspire through well articulated true-life stories what innovation and a touch of daringness can do to drive one’s business on the road to success.

Most big companies are so set in their old ways, and absolutely terrified of change as a means to grow their business success, because “change” equals “risk” to them and “risk” equals “failure”. So they keep their old practices and never seize the opportunity to become remarkable (something that is in itself often far less riskier than merely staying on the safe, boring and doomed road).

This is a wonderfully thought-provoking and take-home message book, challenging companies to take a risk at being remarkable. It is also a perfect study case to use for discussions, sharing and applications. The essence of a innovative and inspirational book like this, is not to lecture the reader on the ‘does and don’ts’ but to provide pithy true-life stories to prove the success of Big Moo’s in our time. And once you start to realize the opportunities waiting for you and your business, you burn with a desire to know “what will happen if I did indeed create Big Moo after 25 years of success?”

It is clear from the examples provided by this book that the road to ultimate success for some well-renowned companies is by always being on the lookout for the “next Big Moo” the idea that will not only distinguish them from their competitors, but will also make them worthy to be talked about in the very saturated and competitive business markets of our time.


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Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
Author: Seth Godin
Place: England
Publisher: Penguin books Ltd
Publication date: 2008
Edition: Special edition
145 Pages
Price: R154 (at Exclusive Books, Stellenbosch)
ISBN: 978-0-141-03645-8

What on earth is a Purple Cow doing on the business bookshelf?

When I decided to choose a business book to read and write a review about, I did not want to pick a book describing the success stories of a major company or brand. Any success story is exactly as it states: A success story. Not a success recipe. The world of marketing is extremely complex seeing that there are no guaranteed success step-lists to follow (at least not any more). What does, however make sense (and can be noted), is that successful and growing businesses today all have one thing in common: nothing! Every success story has its own unique twist, “fingerprint”… an extraordinary-factor.

A Purple Cow is defined as:

“Products, services and techniques so useful, interesting, outrageous, and note-worthy that the market will want to listen to what you have to say. No, in fact, you must develop products, services and techniques that the market will actually seek out.”

Seth Godin is a renowned and celebrated marketing guru (also a renowned public speaker and has started several successful companies) who challenges the world of traditional marketing/business beliefs and philosophies in an attempt to solve the problems that the new era of marketing is bringing with it. He successfully creates simple, clear, logical ideas that are all supported by real-life case studies in this book. In Purple Cow he encourages the reader to put the “extraordinary”-factor into every part of his/her business (from the creation right through to the marketing and selling of a product)… even within yourself (marketers are becoming designers). The book evaluates the question: what does it take to create something worth marketing and spreading in the first place… something that is remarkable? As Seth states in this book; being remarkable and doing remarkable things is the only way to be successful. A sure road to failure is by being boring… by being safe, something that is much more risky and dangerous for a business than inventing a Purple Cow.

Not only is his writing style very easy to read, fiery and graspable but he challenges the reader to think about his theories and throughout the book (at the end of each chapter) provides the reader with a food-for-thought concept that encourages reflection on the discussed issue within his/her own current business position. This technique actively involves and intrigues the reader as he/she progresses through the book. This is due to the fact that the Purple Cow concepts are all very easy to apply in practice, the challenge, however is for Seth to persuade readers to take a leap of faith and actually test these different strategies in their lives/businesses.  

The Purple Cow is truly an “extraordinary” book in itself… once I started reading, I could not convince myself to put the book down. New ideas immediately started to emerge from my imagination and I was inspired to document some marketing strategies for my own “extraordinary Purple Cow” ideas.

As I read through the book, I could not help but have a notebook handy were I would jot down a couple of ideas and concepts for my own future business idea(s). If you are like me, and enjoy reading inspiring, but also practical/applicable (and proven) literature that fuels you and guides you in your own life/work; this book will be a delight for you to read as well.

The book itself catches the eye as a peculiar purple addition amongst the hundreds of other fictional business books: completely dressed to stand out amongst the clutter. Therefore it is already claiming unique attention in a field that has almost exhausted all possible unique selling propositions.

Seth Godin makes the statement that traditional well-known marketing P’s (Product, Pricing, Promotion, Positioning, Publicity, Packaging, Pass-along and Permission) “just aren’t enough” any more. There is a need for a new “P”, an “exceptional P” called the Purple Cow.

The book explores the methods of old worn-out marketing strategies in comparison to a new exceptional and more daring technique of marketing: creating a “Purple Cow”.

 “Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring… A Purple Cow, though. Now that would be interesting. (For a while)”

He goes on by stating that:

            “The essence of the Purple Cow is that it must be remarkable.”

The book focuses attention on the traditional ways of marketing: especially on the TV-industrial complex which grabbed the attention of all marketers and advertisers. Commercials became the main stream medium for successful advertising and created memorable impacts on viewing consumers. He does, however acknowledge the selling successes that some brands/companies managed to achieve by utilizing TV to create memorable brand commercials. Those brands will ultimately always be associated with the initial, original TV commercials that left a lasting first impression (before commercial advertising became oversaturated). BUT: times have changed, consumers are being bombarded with information and advertisements of different brands trying hard to interrupt them and appeal to their existing needs and emotions. How does a brand manage to grab attention in a society were:

  1. Numerous product/brand choices are available (and increasing daily)
  2. Consumers have less time than ever before to search and study advertised products
  3. Competitors are hungry to grab any share of the industry market that they can lay their hands on.

This concludes his reasoning for the need for a Purple Cow: An extraordinary product that will rise up above the clutter of traditional and “safe” marketing communications of other generic products.

Seth Godin succeeds in accurately describing the current troubles that product advertising is experiencing in terms of “Scary budgets” and “Boring products” that naturally results from the efforts to advertise and appeal to the masses. He states that the old rule was:

            “Create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing”

Today the new “Purple Cow” rule is:

            “Create remarkable products that the right people seek out”

This indicates the increasing need for niche marketing in order to appeal to the small percentage of “Early Adopters” in the market that will eagerly buy and evaluate a “Purple Cow” from which they will benefit. If their expectations are exceeded they will act as the “free advertising” (so-called sneezers) team for the brand: spreading very positive word-of-mouth to the greater segment of the market (“Early and Late Majority”). Thereby not only effectively advertising to consumers that will probably become loyal users, but also sparing the millions of dollars/Rands that would have been invested in traditional mass-marketing strategies.

By making use of very effective, relevant and exceptionally thought provoking case studies, Seth Godin not only manages to illustrate and prove his theory of the Purple Cow success, but also manages to encourage the reader to proactively think about ways that he/she can improve/revolutionize their own business’s. This book is an excellent evaluation of current marketing dilemmas and Seth uses common knowledge (often overlooked by most businesses for the fear of failure) to introduce effective strategies for creating successful brands.

The book illustrates that a Purple Cow is not necessarily more risky than traditional marketing strategies/products. In contradiction: a Purple Cow is often a lot less risky and a lot more likely to gain success than the traditional marketing strategies.  

“My goal in Purple Cow is to make it clear that it’s safer to be risky – to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about.”                  

The book effectively illustrates and explains the Purple Cow theory to the reader in a very convincing manner. Seth clearly anticipated the doubtful questions that the reader might have. Such as: the reason as to why so few organizations are making use of Purple Cows if it claims to achieve so much success? Few businesses are willing to risk the chance of a new strategy/idea. They fear the risk of failure and criticism more than they desire the possibility of a coveted brand success. What most people do not realize (or ignore out of fear for change) is that it is more risky NOT to invest in the development and promotion of a Purple Cow! More money is ignorantly wasted on traditional advertising strategies of products that are just “good”… but not “extraordinary” enough to grab the attention of the mass market that is being focused on.            

            “I don’t think there’s a shortage of remarkable ideas. It’s the will to execute them.”

 “Awareness is not the point”. As Seth points out, stimulating awareness for a product is not a precursor guaranteed to lead to increased sales. Instead, by focusing on creating a niche market of loyal consumers, one will inevitably succeed in ultimately reaching the masses, through the diffusion of the “extraordinary” idea through the market by word-of-mouth.

Seeing that consumers are searching for and controlling information that they need, we are not as successful in targeting them anymore by using old marketing techniques. We need to create something that will stand out; break free from the “ordinary”; something that will spread like a virus through the market… 

“Marketing in a post-TV world is no longer about making a product attractive or interesting or pretty or funny after it’s designed and built – it’s about designing the thing to be virus-worthy

One is left with one of two options:

–  To design generic, boring and safe products/brands (something that is considered very risky both financially and ineffective reach of target markets)


–  To design a Purple Cow:

“Once you’ve managed to create something truly remarkable, the challenge is to do two things simultaneously:

  1. 1.     Milk the Cow for everything it’s worth.
  2. 2.     Create an environment where you are likely to invent a new Purple Cow in time to replace the first one when its benefits inevitably trail off.”

However, this book is not a clear cut step guide to creating and maintaining a Purple Cow… it is a guidance manual; advising and inspiring the reader to improve/support the process of creating a successful Purple Cow. It is a strategy guidance book that offers guidelines and real-life examples to convince the reader that the road to success (and for that matter: the road to survival) is through the creation of remarkable products/services, for a niche market, that have the capacity to sell themselves.

Seth Godin informs the reader that he does not have a simple answer for successful Purple Cow creation/maintenance but that he offers a system:

“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.”

“By reviewing every other P (of marketing), you sketch out where your edges are… and where your competition is. Without understanding this landscape, you can’t go to the next step and figure out which innovation you can support” 

What Seth ultimately does in this book is to redefine the concept of marketing: Where marketing used to be done to a product; today marketing is the product and successful marketers are no longer merely marketers… now we are designers.

“Marketing is the act of inventing the product. The effort of designing it. The craft of producing it. The art of pricing it. The technique of selling it. How can a Purple Cow company not be run by a marketer?”

This is a magnificent manifesto for marketers who want to be inspired and guided to help contribute to successful and sustainable marketing strategies.

From my point of view: seeing that this was the first Seth Godin book I have read, I was pleasantly surprised! Not only by the convincing manner in which he approaches new age marketing strategies, but I have also been inspired to read more of his books and recommend it to others. One could therefore perhaps reason that he has created a Purple Cows just by writing this book!

To conclude: The face of successful marketing has changed, challenging marketers and businesses to embrace well calculated risks and strive at being “extraordinary”… This is what it will take to survive and stand out in a clutter of marketing communications in the world we know today. It is time to accept and embrace change: and to make it work for your business better than ever before. The first step is to push your comfort zoning fears aside: and remember the following:

  1. Don’t be boring
  2. Safe is risky
  3. Design rules now
  4. Very good… is bad

Let the genetic manipulation of marketing begin! Long live the Purple Cows!

Visit Seth Godin’s Blog at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/10/another_big_moo_1.html

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