My Purple Cow experiment

Posted on May 27, 2010


As probably know, I am a huge fan of speaker and author Seth Godin. His concept of ‘Purple Cow’ has helped to simplify and articulate a new marketing philosophy. The premise; If you are a purple cow in a herd of 1000 brown cows, you would stand out. Godin proposes to look at that market (peers or co-workers) and do what no one else is doing. So with the help of my lovely 7 year old daughter, I decided to conduct my own purple cow experiment.

This week is ‘Teacher Appreciation Week’ at my daughters school. On one of the days, all the students were asked to bring in a flower to give to their teacher. My daughter and I talked about it  and decided to make a flower for her instead of buying one, but not any sort of flower a ‘purple flower’. With a coat hanger, some tissue paper, and some glue, we crafted a simple purple rose. The next day I took my daughter to school and watched as she went into her classroom holding this non-traditional and artificial rose . I could tell she was a little insecure since the crowd of her peers all had the expected authentic red, yellow, and orange flowers.

Last night we went to the open house where the parents all come and explore the classroom.  I discovered the purple cow phenomenon had occurred. All the kids flowers were grouped together in one vase- nearly indistinguishable from each other. In fact, I would speculate that even the kids could not remember which flower they had brought in. As pictured above, my daughters flower went into its own vase, proudly displayed on the teacher’s desk.

Author and marketer  Hugh MacLeod says:

Don’t stand out in the crowd, avoid the crowd all together

So true. Crowds want you to conform, fit in, and be the same. The crowd exists not for the benefit of the individual but for the preservation of the group. You don’t have to be an isolationist but don’t let yourself conform to ‘group think’ solutions. It won’t be easy and the risk will cause you to be uncomfortable but that’s what it costs to stand out. I was glad that our hard-working teacher enjoyed this little gift. But the greatest gift of all is that my daughter is learning not to think like other 7 year olds and more like a purple cow.