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A Marketer’s Paradox

Ever have a good idea …. a great idea ……. no one in your line of business has it. Your idea will allow your company to stand out. If it is successful your product or service will soon rocket to the top of market …. every marketer’s dream.

You present your idea to your management team. You ask for money to implement the project. As you look around the room people shift in their seats and catch each other’s eye. Finally a bold individual says, “It’s obvious that you are very passionate about this idea and you’ve given it a lot of thought. If this is so good why isn’t anybody else doing it? What makes you think it will work? Maybe we should think about this for a while.” The group nods and your idea ends up on the “further study” pile.

Seth Godin may call your unique unproven idea a Purple Cow. There a lots of brown cows and black cows. In his opinion cows are boring. In order to stand out a company needs to be remarkable. In a book by the same name he writes “a purple cow describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat out unbelievable.” Godin says Starbucks and Krispy Kreme are good examples of companies with purple cow ideas.

An observation I’ve made is it always is easy to look back and see what ideas worked, it is much harder to look forward (and convince others) about the next purple cow idea. If I knew in advance which horse would win I’d be a fool not to bet on it.

Andy Sernovitz writes a very popular blog, “Damn! I wish I’d though of That!” where he shares great ideas. One thing is for sure, a remarkable company needs to keep moving. A purple cow today soon becomes a brown one tomorrow as copy cats race into the arena.

So how do you create a purple cow, get permission and funding from your team to try and to implement it successfully?

That is a marketer’s paradox.

So here are some thoughts.

  1. Understand your customer and your influencers. What need will your new idea meet? What benefit will it provide? Will your customers see the idea as remarkable? Will they tell their friends?
  2. How does your customer communicate today? How may they communicate tomorrow? How can you make it easy for them to tell others about your product/service?
  3. Ask yourself – what technologies are available to help you communicate with your customers/influencers in a non traditional way? Learn everything you can.
  4. Diversify your risks. Your idea is new and innovative. Surround yourself with people who are experts in the process, and the technology you are depending on to implement your idea.
  5. Is what you are doing legal? The first thing your competition will argue is “they can’t do that.” Stay one step ahead of them.
  6. Start something. Keep pushing. Keep the dream alive.


A purple cow example
I was at a seminar recently where I saw a couple of potential purple cows in the same meeting. Bryan Gray and his staff at MediaSauce, a Carmel IN based multimedia company recently hosted a seminar on Web 2.0, an explanation of what is happening in the new interactive worldwide web. The primary presenter, Sarah Robbins (more on her in a minute), is an expert in the technology and is well known in the field. Bryan and Sarah presented information on a number of interesting topics that I might be able to use in the near future. I found out this was the first of a regular series of seminars. The seminar was free.

What made this a purple cow (in my opinion) is that MediaSauce is now an expert in Web 2.0. Need an innovative way to get your message across – use MediaSauce. At least include them in the mix. Have a friend, or a boss you need to educate in this new technology, bring them to the next meeting. I may not be ready to buy now but if I am I’ll know who to call.

Bryan and MediaSauce are taking a gamble. The seminars cost money. Members of the staff are not creating billable hours by attending a seminar. Valuable information is being shared for free. What is the ROI? My feeling is this is a purple cow and once MediaSauce is successful more agencies will be doing it.

The second example of a purple cow is Sarah herself. Sarah “intellagirl” Robbins is director of emerging technologies at MediaSauce. She has a distinctive look.

That’s Sarah on the right.

Her job is to focus on current and future tools of the trade. In her “free” time she is working on a PhD in rhetoric and composition and researching how to teach it in Second Life, an online digital world owned by its residents. Not only does she know about something, she lives it and my guess is that she has a huge network of folks that will help her develop the next killer ap.

A statement your team may make is: Every idea is not a purple cow. Absolutely!! There are plenty of Puk-Green ones out there. Your job as marketing guru is to help your organization separate the remarkable from the boring from the outright bad.

Now how do I use what I learned to help my business? How can I take advantage of this new interactive world? Will doctors and nurses sign on to Second Life to understand a new pharmaceutical product? I don’t know. Wait a minute, what if every inhabitant of Second Life for no reason came down with a case of head lice?? They would need something to get rid of them. On a larger scale what if 40% of them had high cholesterol? Pfizer are you listening. …..

Time to leave the virtual world and come back to reality.

Don’t be scared to come up with ideas that are different. Test them out. Be remarkable. You may be surprised with what you come up with.

Until next time – All the best!


{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Intellagirl August 14, 2007, 10:18 pm

    Wow! Thanks so much for your generous comments on Friday’s session. I truly love giving talks like Friday’s. If just one person in the audience learns something that makes their life easier or more enjoyable, just one way to better connect with the people who matter to them in business or personal life, i feel like my job is done.
    We love to get feedback like this and I never thought I’d appreciate being called a cow!
    ps Please feel free to poke around my blog http://www.ubernoggin.com for more ideas like the ones I presented on Friday. Hope to see you at the next session in December.

  • Jill Thixton August 14, 2007, 11:14 pm

    Roland- Thank you so much for the kind words! I love hearing wonderful feedback like yours.

    I look forward to meeting you at future events.

    -Jill Thixton, Event Manager, MediaSauce

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