We were recently inspired to write this piece while we were researching our amazing venue, the Orchestra Kentucky. Per their website, the OK subscribes to The Purple Cow Marketing Theory, written by keynote speaker and entrepreneurial author Seth Godin. If you haven’t read the book, we’ll summarize the general idea here from a few different angles. If you’re a big Godin fan, know we’re going to get a little bit critical. But our discussion here is meant with the best intentions as we respect this author.

The Purple Cow Marketing Theory

The Purple Cow Marketing Theory illustrates more than marketing, but innovation, albeit in a juvenile way. If you enjoyed the marketing/sales book “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, you’d dig this one too. These are cartoonish parables which leave us feeling a little patronized, but perhaps that’s the point.

In a nutshell, The Purple Cow Marketing Theory says:

  • People see the standard black and white cows and brown cows all the time.
  • We don’t get excited by them.
  • However, if we were taking a drive in the country and saw a PURPLE COW, well, we would stop, pull over, take some selfies, call our friends, and maybe even the local news station!
  • Therefore, the best way to market your business is to be a purple cow.
  • Businesses should strive to be entirely unique and exciting if they expect to succeed in our tech-savvy marketing environment.

What We Love About The Purple Cow Theory

At face value, it’s true! The fields of business are full of boring brown cows, plugging along, chewing their cud, doing their thing. Sometimes an innovative company comes along and completely upsets the status quo, the standard state of affairs.

Our business model here at Onstage Publications was a purple cow in the performing arts industries. We completely overhauled the system! Our venues no longer need to publish their program books. By taking away the stress of on-deadline publishing, we free up performing arts organizations to do what they do best: PERFORM! We provide them with luxury-level program books, in some cases better than the program books they were used to, and we actually pay them to do it!

But enough about us. The reason any business model and marketing campaign work is a genuine need for the product or service. And that brings us to the critical part of this article, which makes two points:

  • All cows are inherently valuable.
  • Purple cows are no more valuable than brown cows.

The Value of Purple Cows

Whether you’re a carnivorous meat-eater like this author, or an animal rights activist with PETA or a devout Hare Krishna Hindu who believes bovines are the beloved pet of god, COWS ARE INHERENTLY VALUABLE. Whether as leather or a life-form, few human beings on this planet will deny that cattle are valuable in their own right.

This is not true of businesses. Investopedia quotes the Small Business Administration (SBA) to say that about a third of all new businesses fail in their first year, and about half of them fail in the first five years. 

  • No statistics prove how many of these businesses were innovative, or “how many of these cows were purple.” However, we feel that many entrepreneurs have an innovative product or service, or they wouldn’t have taken on the soul-crushing challenge of launching a new business!
  • Whether these new cows were brown or purple, they were deemed to be without value to consumers.

Innovation Does Not Equal Success

Innovation for the sake of innovation, science for the sake of science, change for the purpose of change, isn’t enough to guarantee success. A purple cow might make waves across the internet, but in the end, his inherent value is the same as every other cow.

  • Do you remember the Segway scooter? Recall the marketing hype about how it was going to change the world.

This illustrates our point that purple cows are still cows! 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our dissection of and dissension from The Purple Cow Marketing Theory. We respect the writings of Mr. Godin, and we think he makes valid points, most of the time. If you’re an entrepreneur looking to market your purple cow, brown cow, or black and white cow to an elite audience, get in touch with us today!

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