Purple Cow

One of the various books that’s gotten some attention from me lately is by a guy named Seth Godin. He’s written a book called Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Becoming Remarkable. Its basic premise is that consumers no longer pay attention to marketing, so marketing no longer is an effective mechanism for selling products and services. Consumers sell themselves and other consumers on “remarkable” products. If a product doesn’t have that remarkable edge about it that causes consumers to 1) recognize that product as “the” solution to their problem or itch, and 2) then tell other consumers about this great product, then the product will not do well in today’s marketplace. (To give appropriate background info, I ran across this book via Fast Company, and accepted Mr. Godin’s offer of a free book (free + $5.00 S&H)).

Questions: 1) Do I agree with his basic premises and theory? (Note that I haven’t finished reading the book yet.) 2) Is Mr. Godin’s book itself a remarkable product?

Answers: 1) So far, my gut agrees on the ignoring the mass media part, anyway. Looking around me, seeing the number of times my husband channel-surfs through a commercial, the buzz that used to surround the Tivo, the fact that web browser companies give away their product for free but sell the version of their product that doesn’t include commercials. . . I’d have to say that the American consumer doesn’t give too much attention to commercials. The one exception is the Super Bowl, where we pay way too much attention to the commercials, and little attention the product being hawked. I can remember plenty of Bud Bowl game commercials, but can’t say as I have any more respect for their product because of them. Do I, however, base my purchasing decisions on whether a product is remarkable? In general, I’d say, no, I don’t. Mine is a calculation of value, usually – my Handspring being the obvious exception. (OK, so I thought that was remarkable and bought it.) As we start thinking about mini-vans, I don’t consider whether it has a neato cool feature that makes it stand out from the rest – I’m interested in its service history, its MPG, its safety record, etc. In fact, I’m very likely to turn down a remarkable new offering just because it’s new and I don’t trust it to yet have the kinks worked out.

But reconsider: what if I found a vehicle that met my MPG dreams, my safety wishes, and was from a dealer that I thought I could trust? Would I be willing to pay a price premium for that “remarkable” product? And thus free the selling company from competing solely on my usual value critieria? The light dawns. . . (BTW, I have high hopes for the Saturn VUE – word is that it’ll be offered as a gas-electric hybrid in 2004.)

The challenge, then, for me in applying this to what I do (or determining that I need to do something else). . . determine either the wow feature of J2EE software systems or determine a way to break outside some set of constraints that were previously perceived to be bounding J2EE software systems development (ala my service, MPG, and safety wishes for my mini-van). That’s the puzzle that’s been niggling for a few days in my spare moments. Moo.

[Note that this post, had it been extended to fully encompass the thoughts that drove it, would have been too long, and deprived me of too much sleep, for either of our comfort. Forgive me my disjoints in thought processes and communications. Trust me that it all works out somehow in the wash, at least in the brain pinging around inside my skull.]

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