Justin Bieber and the Purple Cow

January 22, 2013

Way back in 2003, before “Google” was a verb, Seth Godin coined the phrase “Purple Cow”, a term used to describe something interesting and set apart from the rest.  In his book of the same name, Godin postulated that (even for a guy from New York) driving along the quaint countryside of France, the cows along the road that at first held your attention, would eventually blend into the scenery and cease to become interesting.  

What would catch your eye, he argued, was a purple cow…standing among the black, and white, and brown cows that dotted the countryside on your trip from Versailles to Provence.  Of course, the purple cow is metaphoric.  It represents the “signal” we discover while sifting through the overwhelming “noise” we’re subjected to on a daily basis.  In other words, to be remarkable (even back in 2003 and certainly more so in 2013), your product(s) must be radically different in a meaningful way for people to even notice, much less buy, and (if we’re extremely good) tell others about their purchasing experience. 

Tomorrow night, I’m taking my oldest daughter to the Justin Bieber concert.  Bieber (whose last name I thought for years was Beaver) is a true purple cow.  He can dance, sing, write, play, and promote…a true performer with skills and polish and style and nothing, absolutely nothing, left to chance.  The lights will go on as planned, the set list is pre-arranged, the sincere words he says during the breaks and the clothes he wears were all thought out well in advance, to create a unique experience that his fans will never forget. 

What does your product look like?  Is it unique?  Do its attributes market itself?  Or are you just putting a new name on the same old aspirin formula that’s been around for 130 years, trying to move the market share dial by 1%?  What’s harder?   What’s more fun?  The answer to both questions is probably the same. 




Fair and Square

June 28, 2011

Recently, I hit up a friend for the sponsorship of an upcoming non-profit event, giving him just 3 days to decide whether or not this event would be a good fit for him and his business.  I was very late in my request, and knew my chances of securing this last minute funding were slim.  In the end, he decided to pass, but promised to support the event next year.

Later, when his wife had heard of the sponsorship opportunity, she suggested that in the future, I come directly to her for such requests…she could make things happen.  I knew this, of course, but that’s not how I wanted to play it.  In philanthropy, as in business, we want people to part with their money because we sold the vision and the value; because we earned the right to ask for the order.

Conceptually, the idea of the “good ol’ boys” network is intriguing, but if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s not really how we want to make a living.  Of course we want to win, but not because we have an angle or know what strings to pull.  We want to win because we truly won…fair and square.

Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here

June 21, 2011

But if she did, she’d tell you to get off your ass and get to work.  The summer is the best time of year to put your head down and focus, because most of your competitors have taken their foot off the gas.  Take advantage of the time you’ve been given…you’ll never get it back.

I’m Not Sure Everybody Gets It

June 10, 2011

I’m not sure everybody gets it.

For the 5,000 years leading up to about 10 years ago, bigger was better.  Bigger paid higher salaries, bigger won more often, and bigger carried more clout.  Bigger was low-risk and high-reward.

But not now.  Now, 2 guys with passion can launch a business on the side and literally change the way an entire industry operates.  Now, customers care about agile, and smart, and responsive – and don’t really give a damn about size.  Now, you can be anything you want to be, and create anything  you want to create, without permission or a lot of cash.

I’m not sure everybody gets it, but that’s OK with us, because we do.


This Ain’t the Ritz

June 4, 2011

The Ritz is known around the world as one of the finest hotel chains available…and they’re paid accordingly.  Room rates typically range from around $400 to $10,000 per night.  I’ve stayed at a few over the years, and though you might expect drastic differences between the Ritz and say, the Hilton, the truth is that most of the differences are marginal:

  • The beds are only marginally more comfortable
  • The decor is marginally more elegant
  • The food is marginally better (and sometimes not at all)

What really separates the Ritz from most other hotels is the customer service…the personal touch that employees are encouraged and empowered to provide.  The Ritz understands that people (some people) are willing to pay more than 3x the average nightly rate to be treated well, to be accommodated, and to be catered to.  And so they hire the right people, incent the proper behavior, and create devoted followers.

Before you allow yourself to create excuses for why you can’t deliver a phenomenal, consistent customer experience, just remember that it’s a choice.  Anybody can do it, if they really want to.


Stupid Ideas

May 24, 2011

My friend and former colleague, MJ, has a lot of stupid ideas.  Since I’ve known and worked with him, he’s consistently come up with the craziest, hair-brained schemes….most of which I chuckle at or dismiss, but some of which are insightful and brilliant.

And so when my buddy Chris showed me these Diesel Jean ads, it made me think of MJ, and appreciate his stupid ideas all the more.

Enjoy, and ask yourself:  Is smarter always better?

By the way, the rest of the ad campaign can can be found here:  Diesel \”Be Stupid\” Ads

Why Wait?

May 13, 2011

You know what the problem with salespeople is?  We wait.

  • We wait for manufacturing to improve its processes and supplier pricing, so that our product costs will drop and make us more competitive.
  • We wait for marketing and sales management to come up with new campaigns that drive incremental demand.
  • We wait for product engineering to produce new solutions that leap-frog the status quo, providing us with first-mover advantage.

In short, we’ve outsourced innovation to other people in the organization, focusing solely on the execution  of someone else’s plan.

It shouldn’t be this way.  There are plenty of opportunities to innovate in our sphere of influence and control.  At every touchpoint along the Sales Cycle Continuum, there is always room for improvement or radical change….opportunities to improve the customer experience, drive more revenue, and ultimately put more money in our pockets – through innovations that we create.

You’ve got a choice to make:  Will you wait for someone else to create your success?  Or will you take the initiative, innovate, and control your own destiny?

The Lemon Law and the Collective Consciousness

May 6, 2011

The Federal Lemon Law was passed in 1975 to protect consumers against warranty fraud, most notably in auto sales.  To this day, car sales men and women still fight the stigma tied to their profession (anyone referred to as a “used car salesman” isn’t receiving a complement).

That was 36 years ago, and sadly, the collective consciousness of today is no better than it was back then.  We need our morality legislated like never before, because where there is money to be made between someone selling and someone buying, you will find rampant dishonesty and corruption.

For you and me, this is actually good news.  Because if you’re honest, reliable, and deal with integrity, you’ll find that customers will actually seek you out.  We’re that scarce.

I Found It

April 29, 2011

I found it.  It’s called Husk and it’s on Queen Street in Charleston, South Carolina.

Husk is a bar that’s completely, utterly, devoted to bourbon.  Their bartenders know bourbon, I mean really know it….they’re fanatical.  When they’re not serving it, they’re making it; experimenting with honey, peaches, rosemary, rhubarb and beets, trying to come up with the some unique combination that raises a few eyebrows.

Want a skinny girl margarita?  This isn’t the place for you.  Prefer to watch the NFL draft?  Look elsewhere.  These guys do bourbon, and that’s it.

Husk is the type of place that makes you think:  You can try to be everything to everybody and wind up doing nothing well, or you can focus on one thing, and doing it better than anybody else.  Guess which one they’ll be blogging about the next day?

Don’t Tell Me

April 21, 2011

Tell me that you’re lazy.

Tell me that your priorities are in the right place.

Tell me you don’t care that much about money or recognition or reward.

Tell me any of these things and I’ll believe you.  I’ll accept your answer at face value.

But don’t ever tell me that the reason you’re not reaching your potential is because of your family commitments, your sick uncle, the city you live in, the industry you work in, the company you work for, or the product you sell.  Because that’s all bullshit, and you and I both know it.

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