Being a purple cow

Deborah Laird

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Being a purple cow

A family are driving through rural France on holiday. They pass some strikingly beautiful farmland filled with “storybook cows”. If you’re from the city or not had much experience with agriculture, seeing a field full of cows is exciting and memorable… at least for a bit. Soon, though, they blend. Every group you pass looks like the one before it. Even hours later, most people would struggle if asked to describe just one of those cows in any real detail.

Rethink the above scenario. Exactly the same but for one key difference: in one of those fields stands a cow, ordinary in every way, except for its colour. The cow is purple. Now THAT you’re going to remember.

This is the narrative foundation for Seth Godin’s classic marketing text, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.

According to Godin, the old days of producing a bland product or service and slapping a marketing campaign on top of it are gone. Now, being remarkable isn’t just necessary to thrive, but to survive. Social media and the fast-paced information age have changed the landscape.

So, how can your brand stand apart from the herd? How can you be the purple cow that the market demands?

Being safe is risky

As we discussed in a recent blog, taking the safe option is – counterintuitively – riskier than you’d expect.

Once again, the world of advertising and marketing has changed. It’s not enough to take a static product shot and slap a generic strapline on top it. With the advent of internet adverting and promoted social media posts, it’s not impossible for every one of us to see hundreds – if not thousands – of advertisements a day. How many do you remember?

Think of those that you do. Maybe you saw them years, even decades ago. What did they have in common? It’s likely they were strange. Funny. Even annoying. But different.

That’s what brands need now. Walk in a different direction and be proud to do so.

As Seth Godin puts it: “That’s why the riskiest thing you and your company can do right now, is to not take any risks at all.

What are you offering?

Here’s some jargon: innovative, versatile, dynamic. How many times do we hear those words? Who are they for? They’re so vague they’re essentially meaningless.

Your product, service, or brand IS different and unique. Otherwise, it wouldn’t exist.

One of the first things you learn in marketing is to focus on benefits over features. We are emotionally driven creatures. We need to know how using your product will make us feel, how it will enrich our lives.

Drill down into what you’re offering. How can you sum up the benefits in as straightforward a way as possible? X will do Y for your business.

After that, attach a narrative. Using X helps my business do Y and Z is what it looks/feels like.

Suddenly, your offer has a story. Now you stand apart. Your audience can envision making that purchase, and they’re more likely to do it with you.

Actually, don’t. It’s a tough process. Let us do it for you.

Growing a purple cow

This all sounds great, but what does it look like in action?

Let’s walk through a recent campaign we did for one of our clients: Fullwood Packo, one of the leading international providers of milking and cooling solutions. We’ve been working with them for several years now.

Key to Fullwood Packo: the cow is central to their messaging. That farmer-cow connection is valued. By putting the cow first, better milking is the natural result. Everybody wins.

We put together a campaign to advertise their Ice Water Cooling offering, something that is unique to them. In short, it uses ice water to cool milk much faster. This not only ensures it’s kept secure and ready for deliveries but helps preserve quality levels.

Now, the safe “brown cow” route would be to focus on a generic message: “Optimal cooling to ensure perfect preservation” or something similarly bland.

We focused in one key benefit: cooling times are effectively halved when using Ice Water Cooling.

Premium quality milk in half the time.

Simple, clear, powerful. But not quite there. It needs just a little flair. We went with:

Premium quality milk in half the time. That’s cool.

How does this stand apart from the crowd? In two ways. Firstly, it’s funny. Not gut-busting, but most ads are so humourless that even a miniature pun can add some heft.

Next, it’s confident. No bluster, no jargon. X does Y. That’s cool. And it is.

Moving on from copy, we wanted to do something different. After all, tanks are not generally the most exciting photographic subject. We wanted that human touch.

Ice Water Cooling Fullwood Packo

We arranged for real farmers to stand in front of the tank. So far, so brown cow. The purple touch came with a little addition: each farmer is holding a champagne flute filled with milk, toasting the camera.

The campaign came together. Clear benefits, snappy copy, and a striking image that is different from other generic ads.

Nothing in that campaign is outright shocking. Even going slightly off the beaten path can yield results.

Let’s be purple

Your brand is strong and unique. Sometimes we just need to find the best way to convey that.

RDP care about finding a way to make your voice heard. Will we challenge you? Yes. Do we want to change your identity? No. We care about digging deeper and working out what makes your brand distinctive.

As Seth Godin puts it:

Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable.

Ready to dig deeper and let your brand thrive? Get in touch.

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