The purple cow and differential marketing value

Imagine a peaceful valley in the Swiss Alps, with green meadows of tall grass swaying in the gentle breeze, small woods here and there, steep mountains with their snow-capped peaks in the background… What is that? What’s that? oh, a herd of cows! Look: that one has big black spots; that one has very few spots (also black); that one over there has black spots too, but horns a little longer than the others…. (50 cows later)… and another cow with black spots, ouch! this is boring me already…

But… What’s going on? Does that cow have purple spots? Why is that? What’s wrong with him? Is it a fake? Could it be an advertisement for a certain brand of chocolate? I’m going to get a closer look!

The truth is, my friend, you have stumbled upon a purple cow, and it seems to have caught your attention. You’re probably thinking I’ve completely lost my mind, what does this silly cartoon have to do with digital marketing? And the answer is that I’m in my right mind and the purple cows have everything to do with new marketing techniques.

Traditionally, marketers have dedicated themselves to bombarding their target audience with more or less original messages (some very good, and others perhaps not so good) about the products and services they wanted to sell them. However, in the 21st century, with the rise of digital marketing, competition has become fierce and these techniques have become outdated: your customers are no longer going to listen to the endless list of benefits your products have, they want your products to give them something they haven’t seen yet: something your competition isn’t already giving them, and probably for half the price you’re offering.

Purple cow to the rescue!

But what is this about purple cows? A purple cow is nothing more than a metaphor for the differential value of your business. In Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow, he explains the importance of purple cows in reaching your target audience and, especially, differentiating yourself from your competition.

The idea that Godin expresses in his book is that when we see common cows in a meadow (unless we are friendly Tyroleans or hardened cowboys from Southern Oregon), at first they will attract our attention: we will approach them, make fun of them and even take the usual selfie; but as we see more and more cows, the “novelty” effect of seeing these animals will quickly wear off. On the other hand, if we suddenly see a purple cow among all those common cows, our focus will inevitably turn to her.

Transferring all this to your business, imagine you have an online store that sells baby clothes: the new mom who comes to your website has surely already visited all the physical stores in the city and has analyzed the websites of your competitors, that is to say, she has spent days and days looking at an endless number of current cows. If they come to your website and find more of the same: a simple online catalog with more or less average prices, chances are they will quickly go back to where they came from: your store is just another ordinary cow.

However, imagine now that as soon as she enters your website she finds a clean and careful design, with images that reflect closeness and home warmth, texts that make her feel the center of your attention and also you tell her that all your clothes are made with hypoallergenic fabrics to avoid redness in the skin of her little one. I would probably think: “This coat is going to cost me more than the one I saw on Aliexpress, but at least I’m sure it will have a good quality and will avoid unpleasant surprises. Decided! I’m going to buy it here. Congratulations! Your tent has gone from a regular cow to a purple cow.

It’s better to invest in becoming a purple marketing cow than in an ad campaign.

As Godin explains in his book, traditional advertising campaigns (including television) no longer work. It’s no use spending a lot of money on Facebook and Youtube ads if your landing page has a more sinister design than the house of the girl from the exorcist or, what comes to almost the same thing, it does not bring absolutely nothing new to your customer. In both cases, it will go back to where it came from without buying anything at all, increasing your bounce rate.

What really matters is to detect your differential value, your purple cow, what you can offer to your target audience and that no one in your competition offers, in short, what makes you unique and give it the greatest possible prominence in your marketing strategy. Thus, even without investing in advertising, your first customers will become the best ambassadors of your business and through word of mouth, they will bring to your business many more customers who, in turn, will make your sales grow exponentially, because you will cover a need that no one else is covering: you will be a purple cow.

Surely lately you have received an offer to change your telephone company, electricity provider, internet service provider, etc. Would you switch to a phone company that offers you exactly the same as the one you currently have, just because it is called “Tumovilya”? No, isn’t it? You will hardly opt for a change if the new company does not offer you something that you want and that you do not currently have; the same thing happens with your customers: it does not matter if you bombard them day and night with your products if they are going to find them the same as those of your competitors.

In search of the lost purple cow

How can you know which is the purple cow in your business? Good question!

The first thing you have to do is to identify your target audience (something basic in any marketing campaign) to know what their pains, needs, concerns… are.

Once you have that clear, it is time to “spy on your competition”, what do they offer to customers, what are their prices, what are their qualities, do they take care of the form (design, copywriting, etc.) as well as the content? Once you have this information, you will know what your target audience is looking for and which of their needs are being covered by your competitors, are there any unmet needs?

At this point, you have to deal with what for many companies is the most complicated task: self-analysis of your own products and services and, above all, of your marketing strategy. If you want this analysis to yield satisfactory results, you are going to have to be 100% honest with yourself and consider things as they are and not as you would like them to be. In this way, discover your company’s strengths, but don’t overlook its weaknesses or cover them up under the complacent cloak of self-deception.

Once you finish this analysis, it’s just a matter of tying up a few loose ends and your purple cow will appear before your eyes as if by magic. The time has come to make it the central axis around which all your company’s marketing will revolve: can you give more for less? highlight all your prices and even make comparisons with those of your competitors; do you have better quality? explain to customers the benefits it can bring them compared to cheaper products, but with poorer quality; do you make limited offers from time to time? create a newsletter so that customers don’t miss out on any… As you can see, from here you have endless possibilities to make your purple cow shine in the market and have a viral effect among your customers. Maybe at first only a few people will notice the novelty of your products, but very soon word of mouth will take effect and your purple cow will be the best known in the whole market among your target audience.

Watch out! Your purple marketing cow is not immortal.

Once you have found your purple cow, it is very important to keep in mind that it will gradually lose its color: what today seems to your customers to be an innovation that will revolutionize the market, tomorrow it gets boring, your competitors copy it and your purple cow becomes a common cow again.

This is inevitable, so by the time it happens you need to have a new purple cow to show your customers. This means that your marketing campaign has to be constantly evolving, exploring new ways to deliver a new differential value to your target audience and surprise them time and time again so as not to lose their attention (and revenue).