Book: Purple Cow

Purple Cow
Seth Godin

ISBN: 1-59184-021-x

After reading The Dip which I thought was brilliant, my high expectations for the Purple Cow were not met. Nevertheless it had a number of really good points to make. Here is my selection:

  1. Seth Godin defines 3 eras: Before Advertising (think tv ads), During Advertising, and After Advertising. Then points out an obvious observation- Before tv advertisement, if you wanted to know who’s got the best cucumbers on the market, you would ask friend and they will tell you. During Advertising, companies that had money advertised, you watched tv and new already who’s got the ‘best’ product, so you already knew what to buy and didn’t have to ask. Now though we are in the After Advertising era when there are billion of ads, billion of products, and we have much less time than before to choose. So what does work if TV ads are ineffective? Answer is: your product has to be brilliant and original, so that it makes people talk about it and recommend it to friends, so that this way it can market itself.
  2. How is this done? Well you have to build the marketing in the product. Don’t make a product, and burden the marketing team to figure out creative ways to sell it. Mix the marketing and engineering team so that the product itself is creative. Sounds very truthful to me.
  3. “While ideaviruses [super successful popular products] are occasionally the result of luck (consider Macarena), the vast majority of product success stories are engineered from the first day to be successful.”
  4. There was an example how one bank has online banking that is used only by 10% of it’s customers. The bank was considering closing down online banking, until it figure out those 10% own 70% of the banks deposits! Always know who the real valuable customers are. Those leading customers will be the attractive force to the masses. If any ads should be created, they should be targeted to this core target group.
  5. I have a strong opinion about how pointless it is to go to school. I’ve written before about it, and this quote fits my vision so well:

    The Cow is so rare because people are afraid.

    If you’re remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise – ever. The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.

    Where did you learn how to fail? If you’re like most Americans, you leanred in first grade. That’s when you started figuring out that the safe thing to do was to fit in. The safe thing to do was to color inside the lines, don’t ask too many questions in class, and whatever you do, be sure your homework assignment fits on the stupplied piece of card stock.

    We run our schools like factories. We line kids up in straight rows, put them in batches (called grades), and work very hard to make sure there are no defective parts. Nobody standing out, falling behind, running ahead, making ruckus.

    Playing it safe. Following the rules. Those seem like the best ways to avoid failure. And in school, they may very well be. Alas, these rules set a pattern for most people (like your boss?), and that pattern is awefully dangerous. These are the rules that ultimately lead to failure. [Seth Godin argues that in the age of After Advertising, you have to shine with originality, because being normal and safe, you will blend with others in the sea of normal prodcuts and you will die]

  6. Another decent point was that packaging DOES matter. (uhm yeah, think Apple Inc packaging)
  7. Easy simple ‘actionable’ advice – Can you make your product collectible, to raise interest?
  8. And I will wrap up with another great quote about having good customer service,

    “Does the post office hire annoying people, or just train them to be that way?”

Lesson from Prince of Persia 1

So I got my hands on Prince of Persia 1 (DOS version) and I started playing it. Unconvetionally, this game does not limit you in lives you can lose, but in time to beat the game – 1h. Part of the game is maneuvrability, part of the game is mazes you have to roam, and part of it are puzzles you have to solve. Every time you play for an hour and don’t complete the game, you have to start from the beginning. And there is no SAVE, just PAUSE.

So I did make a few tries to beat the game, each much better than the previous. But then I got pissed and decided to read about it in the net. First thing I found is that there is save. You just don’t have a menu and it’s a weird shortcut – CTRL+G. Well that changes a whole lot the concept, because if I waste a lot of time, I can loose the current play and keep playing from the good save (there’s only one save, no slots). Second thing I found is a walkthrough. What I found in the walkthrough was a few solutions to things god-knows-how-long-it-will-have-taken-me-to-solve. The guy that wrote the walkthrough actually said it took him and his dad 2 years to figure this one thing, and another 3 to figure out what to do next. So I did save countless hours of wandering and dying. The third thing i found was a speed run, in which I saw a few good shortcuts and tricks. So I beat the game and had sex with the princess…

Prince of Persia thebetastartup

But the point is – how long would I have kept playing if I didn’t do my research on the web, and didn’t find the walkthrough/speed run? I can’t imagine. And honestly it would have been a shame wasting so much time of my life. Which makes me wonder, why the hell are we so resistant to finding walkthroughs for anything else we do in life? If a 5 minute walkthrough saves us 1/2h every day, it’s tremendous advantage. If a 5 minute walkthrough saves us 1/2h once, but you do it all the time, it’s also a tremendous advantage.

The problem is that walkthroughs for life are not named ‘walkthroughs’, and we rarely make the right association to recognize the situations that can be much improved by a short googling of the problem. Have you ever googled folding a T-shirt? You fold at least 1 T-shirt a day average. How about keyboard shortcuts in Gmail? Or how about marketing your startup?

Like anything else is that you have to intentionally start forcing yourself to think about it, and try to recognize more often those situations. You have to actively pursue it and put effort in it. But boy, how do we do that…