The Purple Cow Has Left the Building

When Seth Godin first published his seminal book, neither Facebook nor TwittPurple Cow by Seth Godiner was around. The idea then was to create purple cows to stand out in a sea of ordinary looking cows.

A lot has changed since then. Not only is it more difficult to make your purple cow stand out in the age of proliferating digital media channels, but all cows are purple cows now. The bar has been raised and the tools and technologies to superior products and apps means making your purple cow stand out even more difficult.

A good example in the technology world is the pace of innovation with mobile devices. The cows are all purple yet there are winners and losers.

Which phone to buy is, as always, a complex decision. So, it’s not just the fact that the cow is purple, there are a lot of factors and influences that impact that individual consumer's decision. These factors don't just come about by accident or luck; marketers have a deliberate and intense role to play.

What role do marketers play in making their purple cow stand out in a sea of purple cows? What social conversations do they initiate? How do they interact with customers? What is the total experience do they create around their purple cow?The Purple Cow reviewed by Silicon Valley Research Group

Assuming all cows are purple forces marketers to think better and ask better questions. They move the conversation away from product and towards experience. They forge innovation at the periphery of the product, the flanks where other purple cow marketers are not innovating. They make marketers focus as much on the buying experience as the product.

Let's focus on implementation. To gain additional perspective, I interviewed digital brand asset development experts, Laurie Wilk and Terry Pickett, Principals at KAI2 Communications. The following steps to “purple cow success” in the social age emerged from a thought provoking and insightful discussion with them. Here are our key insights:

Start With Content Excellence

Marketers first need a compelling and engaging core brand idea that goes beyond product table stakes and answers fundamental truths from the consumers point of view according to Terry Pickett. For instance, these truths must add value and significance to the consumer’s daily lives combined with emotional connections that could be a catalyst for play, being part of creating a better world, to name a few.

Once you have this, your brand becomes a contagious conversation that creates consumer-generated stories, according to Laurie Wilk. More importantly, they create raving fans who create conversations about their love for your product on their terms. This is the new brand story – not your story, but your fans’ stories.

Add A Strong Vision for The Customer Experience You Wish to Deliver

Laurie, who spent 16 years at Apple, goes on to state: For instance, Steve Jobs vision was “To make tools that would enable people to unleash their personal creativity.” Apple does this today in an approachable way through the Apple Store by offering training and group workshops for people who want to release their inner Steven Spielberg, directing and editing their own movies. Make their own music like a rock start. Or, simply publish their family’s journey together in their memoirs. People don’t buy Apple devices; they buy what the device enables them to do and experience.

According to Pickett, the wine industry needs to take a page from Apple's brand play book and start "thinking different" about the conversations they are starting with consumers instead of copy on their bottle that reads: "Regional style of cherries, chocolate, and herbs complemented by vanilla and an appetizing minerality from our gravel soils."

Take the Dialogue to Them

Get your message to where the consumer lives. Don’t make them leave where they are online to come to you. Are we having a conversation or delivering a sales message? Conversation trumps sales message! Traditional marketers have a hard time with this as frequently they envision the process as simply moving what they used to do to the digital medium.

To sum up: Think brand dialogue, not brand response!


Laurie Wilk and Terry Pickett are Principals at KAI2, a brand and marketing group of strategists, designers, innovators, and implementers. They can be reached at: or