Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Purple Cow, Disc One

So, as a follow up to my lengthy and comprehensive synopsis of Permission Marketing (LOL), I'm venturing into the next Godin book, The Purple Cow. I think I first heard about this book in ASAE's magazine, Associations Now, although clearly I'm out of the loop because Mr. Godin has this huge cult following. Here is a great taste of it from Fast Company magazine.

Full disclosure, these are my notes from listening to the audio version of the book. I have a subscription to Simply Audiobooks and they send me CDs to listen to, Netflix style. I like the service, but so far a couple of the CDs have been scratched, and therefore, they skip some. So that is a bummer, especially when I'm all excited to have a new book to listen to during my commute.

Anyway, back to the topic of The Purple Cow. Why the Purple Cow? It's an object lesson. Godin tells the story of his family's trip to France, where they saw many "picturesque cows" (interesting adjective to use for livestock, but hey, I'm game). After awhile, he relates, the setting got pretty boring, even though it was initially really nice to look at. Therein the necessity for a Purple Cow. So this is a metaphor for the marketplace. It's like, okay you have a good product, so does everyone else.

Interesting discussion of Geoff Moore's chasm models, early adopters, etc. Godin's take is that these early adopter types (and, more specifically, the ones with influence on those around them) are the only people it's worth advertising to. So, those people should be sniffed out and targeted before doing anything else. A refrain of the author is that TV is dead--he allows as that he's prone to hyperbole--but I personally think he's got a huge point. So the permission thing is huge, the relationship building is huge, and most important of all--the PRODUCT is where you have to spend your money, not the marketing.

Funny thing, this book has been out awhile--to me it makes such common sense and yet in today's issue of Advertising Age the lead article's headline proclaims "Toyota to Saatchi: Move Forward." It continues, "Carmaker pushes agency away from crutch of TV." So, let me get this straight, the CLIENT has to tell the ad agency what the new trends in marketing are? Not good publicity for Saatchi. Maybe the agency world should stop all the navel-gazing that passes for professionalism and actually follow the market. Sorry for the snark.

Also fear. He says the reason it's so easy to be remarkable is that people are afraid of it. People are afraid of confronting criticism and the world isn't set up to make people think outside the box, to abuse the turn of phrase. So, the field is white and ready to harvest for people who are willing to take risks. But as it turns out, he concludes, being "boring--in other words, seeking the path of least resistance--is the riskiest thing that an organization can do. For me, this rings true as well. Think of the "New Job Security." That's basically the gist behind that argument--what used to be safe and comfy is now dangerous and leaves you unprotected against marketplace or individual whims.

How does this apply to associations? A couple of thoughts:

1) Many associations represent professionals or industries, so if the profession or industry is booming, so will the association. If not, that's a problem of the association. But what should an association do if the industry is cruddy or going thru a slow patch? I think there's a real opportunity for an association itself to shore up a flagging sector or to help the sector reinvent itself. Discuss.

2) The association community can be fairly inward-looking. This I think comes from the fact that not many people outside the association really know what it is we do. So we may suffer from keeping to many apples to apples. Lots of ideas can be had from observing the world, and particularly, always be focus group testing your members (informally of course) to really determine what their needs are. Then be prepared to act. Godin goes off about how if there's a will to implement these new ideas, then there will be a way to make it happen. This rings true.

Enough bloviating for now. TTYL.

By Seth Godin
ISBN# 159184021X