Can a Purple Cow Endure?


“You know we can’t be the Purple Cow forever, ” said the voice on the phone. That was 4 days ago, and I can’t get the conversation out of my mind. In case you haven’t read it, “Purple Cow” is a book by celebrity marketer Seth Godin that says:

“You’re either a purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible.”

Purple Cow how do we stay purple? Business leadership Maurilio Amorim

I like to think of myself as a purple cow. Well, if I don’t pick up my running mileage I’ll be a different kind of cow, but none one us wants to believe that we’re no longer remarkable or that we now work for a boring, invisible or irrelevant organization. Mr. Godin and others have written a lot about becoming a purple cow, but once we get our colorful cow status, how do we stay there?

Very few have been able to sustain purple cow status for a long time. Apple has done it, and so has Herman Miller, Madona, and Southwest to name a few.

So once we get our purple stripes what do we do to prevent fading into oblivion? What are you doing to stay purple?

  • purple cows need frequent color changes. Like my hair.

    If we do the same things- the same ways we blend into the background. If we change EVERYTHING we lose brand identity. That sucks.

    It's in finding the balance in just enough change that we maintain out stand-out-ness and brand at the same time.

    A change of color without a change of cut, in hair terms.
    A change of topic, but not style- in writing talk.
    A change of market space, not product in mktg…..

    • I like your hair color analogy. Thanks for stopping by.

  • One side of me says you keep Purple Cow Status by expanding (bigger territory, more services)…but I think that's a lie. I think you keep purple status by focusing. Getting better and better at the thing that made you purple to begin with, but you infuse your cow with renewed energy and creativity (fan the flames of your company culture). By focusing on the things that made you truly remarkable to begin with you can increase the intensity of the purpleness. Don't make a bigger cow…just a purplier one.

    • "Don't make a bigger cow…just a purplier one." I love that. And that goes with one of the pitfalls of a lot of businesses: line extension. For example, I knew Starbucks was headed for trouble when they went into the music business.

    • Evan, this is the encouragement that I need. I need to be purplier. Thanks!

  • Great comments. Purplier indeed, and the hair analogy is great.

    You can't be a purple cow forever and continue to be remarkable. You must continue to be remarkable to be remarkable.

    So there you are, the purple cow. Everyone slows down to look at you, people start to take pictures, kids get out of their car to feed you a treat. The purple cow is the rockstar, everyone loves and notices the purple cow. And everyone wants to be the purple cow.

    Especially the brown cows. The purple cow doesn't take notice, people are still driving by, taking pictures. But now they are taking pictures of the herd of purple cows. Soon they stop coming by and he hears through the cattle yard that they're going up the road to look at the orange cow, or maybe even the brown one.

    That's the challenges of the purple cow.

    Brown cows shouldn't try to be purple, they should try to grow wings.
    Purple cows shouldn't focus on being purple, they must continue to amaze and surprise their audience.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Michael. This whole cow conversation is right up your ally. 🙂

  • I like how you mentioned Apple as continuing to be purple. They do do it by line extension. They keep surprising us by entering categories we never thought they would touch, or they just make up new ones (iPad).

    It's funny this came up today. I was meeting with the Communications Director for our local March of Dimes chapter about some events this fall. She knows that their events run the risk of getting stale. She's always looking to the Race for the Cure events and how they keep adding "facets" (Sleep for the Cure, Dog Walk, etc) to keep their event interesting.

    They aren't expanding the line, or changing the vision, they're just adding new ways to participate and attracting new participants.

    • Mitch, I think of Apple more than extending their line, but creating a new space. They're still a technology company that develop hardware and software. Take the iPad, for example, it fits withing their core business but it's a completely game changer. Innovation is any sector is a must today, even as you've pointed out, in the non profit world. Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation.

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  • To be the purple cow, you need be willing to kill the sacred cow. It's hardest to kill the sacred cow when you birthed it.

  • Thanks for the insight, Shelley.

  • Thanks for stopping by Paula

  • Chris

    Focusing on your color is so important. One of the challenges I think though is figuring out what color you are? It goes into branding. Any organization has to first figure out what color they are and then shout that from the roof tops. Don't try to change colors like a chameleon, that just confuses people and will hurt your brand.

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  • Leroy Wagner

    good stuff

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