• Ana Gascon Ivey

Is "Purple Cow" a must-read for freelancers?

One of my goals for 2019 is to read at least one business book a month. For January, I chose the classic "Purple Cow" by marketing guru Seth Godin.

Seth (I'm going to refer to him by his first name, because I think he'd like that) packs a wallop of marketing insights into a small package. The book is only 5"x 7" and 200 words long (including the bonus update from 2009).

He starts with a nod to the successful marketing Ps of the (way) past: Product, Pricing, Promotion, Positioning, Publicity, Packaging, Pass-Along, and Permission. But states these Ps no longer work.

What P works today?: Purple cow.

The purple cow is a new and remarkable product or service. It's a bacon bar in the midst of generic chocolate (Vosges Chocolates). It's sleek, functional furniture sold at cheap prices (IKEA). It's images of pirates and cupcakes on adhesive bandages (Curad). It's a company that hands a customer $450 in store credit for his 15-year-old ski jacket (Patagonia).

The book is loaded with examples like these, and these examples have one thing in common — sneezers.

Sneezers share news about your remarkable product/service to people just like them. For instance, bacon lovers will tell other bacon lovers about your pork-infused chocolate bar; children will show off their pirate bandaids to other children; and so forth. From there, your idea spreads like a virus — hence the Seth-coined term, "ideavirus."

Ideaviruses are spread by consumers with otaku. The Japanese word otaku "describes something that's more than a hobby but a little less than an obsession." People with otaku are sneezers (passionate early adopters) who will try out your product/service, and then tell their friends about it.

In the freelance world, think of people with otaku as your target clients. Offer them something remarkable. They'll tell others, and word about you and your exceptional service will spread like a fire in a dry forest.

Do I think this book is a must-read for freelancers? If you want inspiration and motivation to build something truly noticeable in your field, then yes. Seth says taking a risk is safer than playing it safe. Take a risk. Stop being boring. Do something new. Create a purple cow.