Purpose is the New Purple: A Remarkable Way to Get Mouths Moo-ving
By Alison Klein | July 15, 2015
The Purple Cow is something of a modern-day marketing classic. Initially published in 2003, Seth Godin’s book argues that inundating consumers with ads is no longer effective and that to succeed, marketers have to sell products that are themselves remarkable.
Godin says that marketers will fail if they’re forced to sell boring products, even if they invent ingenious ad campaigns. Instead, marketers should help design products that will gain a following naturally because of their remarkable nature. Godin calls these remarkable products Purple Cows – they are “worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting.” (The Purple Cow 3).
Although Godin might not offer us an exact algorithm for creating remarkable businesses, a clear pattern emerges in the examples of Purple Cows submitted by readers for the 2009 edition of the book: about 1/3 highlighted Purpose-driven organizations and approaches.
This hints that Purpose-driven businesses aren’t only remarkable in the unique ways they work toward their larger Purpose, but that the fact that they have a larger Purpose is itself remarkable. It’s the kind of thing that wins customers and turns them into brand advocates and it’s the kind of thing that gets people talking.
If you aren’t exactly sure what your Purpose is, check out our resource Purpose First: A Guide to Discovering + Defining Your Company’s Differentiator. It will help you go through the process of defining your Purpose so you can start using it to amplify your positive impact and galvanize your customer community.
Take, for instance, the example submitted by Bonnie Diczhazy: the So All May Eat café in Denver, CO. Instead of pricing out its menu items, the eatery asks people to pay what they can. Diczhazy lauds the fact that the founders “have created a thriving community of people who care and are cared for” (168). A restaurant with a thriving community not only enjoys a core group of repeat customers – it also enjoys the word-of-mouth that a values-based connection brings.
Shockingly, KFC makes the book’s list of remarkable companies too. They weren’t deemed remarkable because of their fried chicken though – Kelley Parks wrote in about a campaign in which they filled potholes in troubled communities and stamped their logo on the freshly poured pavement. It’s the “creativity combined with public service” that makes the campaign memorable and positions the company as remarkable (191).
The Purpose = purple equation is key because it doesn’t only happen in these examples from The Purple Cow – the theory holds in the big picture.
Consider the Huffington Posts’ new Profit + Purpose section that aims to put “a spotlight on the ways businesses are working toward solutions…that benefit not only the bottom line but their employees, their communities and the world at large.” Look at FastCoExist, which often covers stories of social enterprises, or Mashable Social Good, which also regularly covers businesses with a positive social impact. The same is true of The Guardian Sustainable Business section.
The formation of these dedicated channels suggests that when profit and Purpose meet, it’s worthy of attention.
I’m not saying that integrating a larger Purpose into your business is the only way to be remarkable or suggesting that you should do so if it doesn’t come from a real desire to do good. I am saying that when integrated authentically, Purpose provides a strong foundation from which to create passionate brand advocates, pique widespread interest and make the world a better place.
Of course, doing good won’t always be remarkable. If you copy someone else’s model, achieve good in a dull way (like only by donating to a nonprofit), offer a terrible product or otherwise mar the remarkability of your business, you’re not going to get very far. That said, starting with the question “How might I pursue a larger Purpose through my business?” is a promising way to discover unique, inventive, interesting and otherwise remarkable ways to differentiate your business and get mouths “moo-ving.”