Purple Cow – where’s the beef ?

There is a small, nay large, industry that makes claims like:

“consumer behaviour has changed radically”
“marketing doesn’t work anymore”

And yet then presents nothing more than a repackaging of the orthodoxy.

For example, Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” says that marketing is “broken”, that advertising could once turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse but has lost its effectiveness due to clutter and ad avoidance. This is spite of research that shows advertising continues to perform as well as ever (1) (2) (3).

So says Seth, companies need to adopt his radical new marketing strategy which is…wait for it…. to produce remarkable products and market them in remarkable ways. Wow. I don’t remember my old Uni textbooks saying anything like this, they only used words like “great” not “remarkable”. What a step forward in thinking.

Seth’s a great story teller, his books are entertaining. But it is a sad reflection on our discipline that these best sellers are so shallow.

Professor Byron Sharp. July 2011

(1) Jamhouri, O., & Winiarz, M. (2009) “The enduring influence of TV advertising and communications clout patterns in the global marketplace”, Journal of Advertising Research, 49(2), 227-235.

(2) Rubinson, J. (2009) “Empirical evidence of TV advertising effectiveness”, Journal of Advertising Research, 49(2), 220-226.

(3) Hammer, P., Riebe, E., & Kennedy, R. (2009) “How clutter affects advertising effectiveness”, Journal of Advertising Research, 49(2), 159-163.

Footnote – Above I argue that Godin’s contribution to marketing theory is to merely replace words like “good” or “great” for “remarkable” so I had to laugh when I read this note in my dictionary about the word “remarkable”:

Properly, remarkable should not be used as a synonym for good. It is value-neutral and means only “worth being remarked upon.” Actually, what’s really remarkable is how many words, like this one, have lost their specific meanings as they’ve been corralled into the sterile confinement pen of synonyms for good, notably fabulous (literally, like something in a fable), fantastic (like something in a fantasy), wonderful (fills you with wonder), incredible (not to be believed). You help restore the richness of the language when you use these words in ways closer to their original meanings.
— DA


6 thoughts on “Purple Cow – where’s the beef ?

  1. Pingback: Digital Age Branding – You are spending your money in all the wrong places – or maybe not « Marketing Science

  2. Your way of telling everything in this paragraph is really fastidious, every
    one be able to simply understand it, Thanks a

  3. I just re-read this post now in 2014. And I have to say that the situation you describe seems to amplify over time. Social Media has enabled “marketing experts” (though brilliant, charismatic salespeople like Mr. Vaynerchuk) to shout out opinions or use different keywords for re-inventing the wheel. It can be hard to weed out “quality content”, especially in times where the way we communicate in changes quickly and its up to everyone to figure out emerging technology/social media before academia has a chance to.

    Your post on the Stengel study shows that even respected consultancies like Optimor and experienced CMOs, can have flaws in their research designs (though even academics argue with each other on that level 🙂 ) Another case in point is the Net-promoter and its criticism – yet Reichheld has bestselling books and the simplicity of the concept appeals to the industry and is frequently used.

    Though I do personally believe that at the basis of everything there is still good, old marketing strategy – its just that the channels are different, and serve different parts of the customer journey to loyalty, and these nuances need to be learned and taken into account. What doesn’t help that the growing complexity makes it very difficult to research the impact of different tactics on the whole customer journey – which is also changing over time.

    At any rate, I like reading a more critical perspective that makes me think. I am a former marketing student, passionate about marketing strategy and science and I hear you. Thanks for encouraging not taking everything for granted.

    Karoline @brandelicate

  4. Reblogged this on PilipBlog and commented:
    I spent a few minutes yesterday reading some of the blog posts from Byron Sharp (the author of the MUST read “How Brands Grow”) and came across this post, which I share with the following comments:

    1. 84% of everything is mediocre or worse (i.e. <= +1 std deviation from the mean).
    2. Therefore it's unlikely that everything I read about "incredible" teams, "awesome" products etc. is true.
    3. We are not very precise in our use of the English language.

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