How To Turn Your Marketing Into a Purple Cow

Alex Olley
Alex Olley
Co-Founder, Head of Revenue and Marketing
April 30, 2020

Seth Godin introduced the idea of transforming your business by being remarkable in his book "Purple Cow". It starts with an analogy.

Imagine you are driving, and you pass a field full of cows. At first you barely even notice the cows as you've seen so many before. You certainly don't notice a particular cow in the herd as seeing cows, for most of us at least, is a regular occurrence. Then imagine that you see a purple cow. All of a sudden this cow has captured your attention. It stands out from the rest of the herd. You turn to the passenger to comment on how remarkable this purple cow is. It's uniqueness stops you in your tracks.

Average marketing is like ordinary black and brown cows. Hardly noticeable and generic. It doesn't cause you to make any remarks about as you've seen it before. Every once in a while we experience something out of the ordinary that briefly grabs our attention, but this attention is often fleeting. The purple cow is all about doing things differently. It is unique and remarkable. It is so different that people feel the need to tell others about it.

If you don't have a purple cow you just blend in with the rest of the herd, udderly generic. Never noticed. What you need is a purple cow to make your marketing remark-a-bull (sorry, not sorry). Here are 3 principles to help your B2B marketing so you can stand out from the herd and create your own purple cow

Being Safe Is Risky

One of the principles of creating a purple is cow is that being safe is risky. It's getting harder to be noticed in a world full of digital clutter. Cutting through the noise is difficult if we use the same tactics as one another. If we continue to play things safe our buyers will continue to ignore us. The safer your marketing is, the riskier it becomes.


When you take bold, calculated risks, you are being a lot safer than you think. By not doing what everyone else is doing, you become more desirable. Buyers want your product or services more and support your alternative view of the world.

If you're concerned about taking things too far, start by copying what other industries do. B2B marketers envy how creative B2C companies can be. Think about being a marketer at Apple. Take some leaves from their book and think more B2C. Alternatively you can find an industry more dull than yours, discover who’s remarkable (it won’t take long), and do what they did. 3M sell boring products but do this superbly.

Find things that are “just not done” in your industry, and do them. Ask, “Why not?” Almost everything you don’t do has not good reason for it.

Find The Sneezers

According to Seth Godin, sneezers are people who are more likely to tell their friends about a great new idea. These people are the heart of the ideavirus - an idea that spreads fast. When they see a great idea, they tell everyone about it. Find the group that’s most profitable. Cater to the customers you’d choose if you could choose your customers. They most probably are the ones delivering the highest value. Delight them, engage them or surprise them. That’s how sneezers are born. In ABM most companies aim for advocacy from their customers. Sneezers are advocates that do your job for you by marketing your product themselves.

We all have ideal customers and should know their profiles well. So don't try to please everyone. Account Based Experiences (ABX) is becoming a new trend in B2B marketing as we move to a more targeted approach. Focus on the customers that will spread the good word by impressing them with your uniqueness through being remarkable.

Don't Compromise

They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee. You can’t compromise to make something remarkable. Even if you come up with an idea that's really good, push yourselves to make it remarkable. As Godin says, something that's very good is hardly worth mentioning. It doesn't go far enough to be shared or commented on. Very good is the opposite of remarkable. Do you want your B2B marketing to be very good or remarkable?

If you're trying to do something remarkable, you have to go above and beyond. One of the challenges in marketing is pleasing everyone internally when it comes to creating new initiatives. Everyone has an opinion. There goes the old saying "too many cooks spoil the broth". Sometimes as a marketer you need to go with your creative gut (cows have 4 btw) and understand that you aren't there to please everyone in your organisation. Equally, don’t try and please everyone in your target audience. You might have several purple cows for different personas and segments.

When it comes to creating your purple cow, you have to ensure it isn't just very good. You need to ensure it's unique and is bold. B2B marketers long for true sales and marketing alignment. The only issue is if we ask sales teams for their thoughts they will give us their thoughts based on instinct. This can affect the campaigns we launch if we listen too much. Combine data and cross-functional teams with aligned goals (I recommend revenue goals) and you'll find calculated risks eat compromise for breakfast. If you end up with a camel, at least make sure it's purple.

Time To Grab The Bull By The Horns?

If you feel your B2B marketing programs need a boost, don't aim for something very good. Take calculated risks so you can stand out from the herd and be remarkable. Your marketing is either a purple cow or it's not.  You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice.

Be Bold. Be Unique. Be Different.

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