A Talking Dog. A Purple Cow. Something Unique & Creative.

Just last week I was fortunate enough to watch the movie Up! in the theatre and the above scene got me thinking about one of the character’s reaction and how it relates so closely to one of my favorite books, The Purple Cow by Seth Godin. In the above clip, the stars of the movie encounter Dug the Talking Dog and comedy hilarity ensues. Watch the last reaction by Russell when they start to walk away and he says “But he’s a talking…dog!

That line just reminded me of Seth Godin’s explanation of the Purple Cow. Basically the point is that as you’re driving along a country road, you’re going to see a pasture filled with cows. At this point, all the cows look the same. There’s nothing unique or different that will separate one from the other. Now, if you’ve continued driving and saw a purple cow, that’s something you’d remember. It’s different. As Seth Godin puts it:

For dozens of kilometers, we all gazed out the window, marveling at the beauty. Then, within a few minutes, we started ignoring the cows. The new cows were just like the old cows, and what was once amazing was now common. Worse than common: It was boring.

Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow — the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows — is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible.

Just like Dug the Talking Dog & the Purple Cow, what you do online needs to be memorable. I’m not talking about just your website. Hell, at this point, everyone has a website. That’s the easiest and simplest way to get yourself online. But what else are you doing to get yourself noticed and separate yourself from the competition? Are you looking at your community and seeing that they want to receive emails? Are they being referred to your site via search engines? Maybe they need to have a mobile application developed to make it more accessible over your competitor? If you’re going to do something, make it really outstanding so when people come to it, they’ll stand up and take notice.

But let’s look at it from another angle. First of all, chances are that if you’re producing a social network to compete with the likes of Friendster, Myspace and Facebook, then your work is probably cut out for you. It’s going to be hard to get in with that community but more so because you all look alike. I’m serious! All social networks have become homogenous. There’s nothing really separating you at face value. So why should I invest my time when I know more of my friends are probably already on Facebook first, Myspace second, and maybe one or two will be on Friendster? This is where you become Dug the Talking Dog…

Taking the above example of producing your own social network, you might want to do things a bit different than the established competitors? Maybe focus on aesthetics of the website better so that it looks good along with strengthening its usability? Maybe even clearly stating your privacy policy and terms of service in an easily understood manner? That might attract some people who don’t want to spend time or any at all wondering about whether data they produce is their’s or not. Maybe creating a truly unique desktop widget that integrates with all other social media, email, website mechanisms whatever they may be?

What I’m trying to get at here is that all products of the same line will eventually begin to look like cows in a field. They all look and act the same. Beef is beef from a cow no matter what the color the cow is. So how are you going to make it so that the consumer picks your one cow to make a remarkable product? Everyone wants to try and solve a problem – it’s the cornerstone of capitalism (that and making lots of money). So while you’re thinking you have the greatest idea, you’re going to need to remember that you can’t just sit around, put together some product that will fix the problem but have its packaging be rather boring and complacent. Start thinking of revolutionary ideas that you can use to help grab people’s attention. The time for laid back marketing is over. It’s all about communicating and making sure that they understand that you’re trying to help them. Be creative with your marketing and show them that your product will help them over all other products.

Maybe your company will standout and become amazing and creative through its personalized service when your competitors offer none? Perhaps this is what Virgin America has done successfully to be the Purple Cow of the airline industry – they were the first to offer free wi-fi on all of these flights around the United States and much more personalized service. What about allowing for more portability of information? Is that something you would  think businesses might want to look at to make their product stand out from others? When you’re doing the marketing, think about how others are seeing it online. It’s one big shelf of websites, email campaigns, etc. People only have seconds to make decisions so you have that time, as a marketer, to really punch your message through and tell people that what they’re seeing is a talking dog!

Have you found the Purple Cow? What exactly is your Dug the Talking Dog and how will it leave people wanting to take it with them?

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."