Purple Cow vs. Golden Calf: Does Niche Marketing or Charismatic Branding Win the Day?
Every marketer and businessperson wants to know the best way to make money and convince the public to flock to their products. Lately, two competing schools of thought have emerged, represented by the images of the Purple Cow and the Golden Calf. These represent two styles of convincing people to buy your products. While niche marketing and personality marketing are complex topics, they can be summed up like so:
Both methods attempt to make your product, service or brand stand out from the crowd of normal “cows” or products in some way. Both ideas stem from a belief that marketing as it’s been practiced for the past several decades is dead and that new ways need to be found to convince the public to purchase products.
The Purple Cow: Be Original!
The image of the purple cow was introduced into business by entrepreneur and author Seth Godin. The idea is that in a world filled with brown cows, none of which turn the eye, as marketers we need to develop an image that is truly different from everything else. (1) “The one sure way to fail is to be boring,” Godin writes. “Your one sure chance for success is to be remarkable.” (2)
The theory states that there is no formula for marketing, because formulaic marketing is itself the problem. There are techniques, but marketers have to be as creative as any artist or poet in order to have success in the modern world. They have to conceive of their own purple cow to place in the marketplace so potential buyers will stop and take notice.
The Golden Calf: Be the Best!
The image of the golden calf represents what is known as “personality marketing,” which makes the counter-claim that big, flashy and charismatic are tried-and-true marketing methods that will always work. You may not be able to build a better mousetrap, but if you stand out there and put on a winning smile, a firm handshake and a dash of personality, you will always stand out in a crowded marketplace. (3) Even better, if you get a known celebrity to stand out there with you. Golden is the only way to describe it.
Consider a fork in the road: at one end is a single purple cow surrounded by curious onlookers, and at the other is an idol of a golden calf, gleaming, surrounded by worshipers. Do you want your product merely to be noticed, or do you want it to be worshiped? The right personality can take a simple concept that everyone knows and transform it into everything they’ve dreamed.
Sometimes people want something familiar rather than something new. If they want something familiar, however, they want it to be golden. They want the best.
A Brief Comparison – Pros and Cons
Purple Cow Pros
- Appeals to customers’ individuality
- Fixes a problem that nobody’s even thought about
Purple Cow Cons
- Too many purple cows in a market may cause people to wish for something more familiar
- Difficult to come up with something no one’s done before
Golden Calf Pros
- Combines the comforts of familiarity with the excitement of a charismatic personality
- Doesn’t require too much product creativity, just the right image
Golden Calf Cons
- Runs the risk of turning people away due to being overly flashy
- Everything depends on smoke and mirrors, because you’re still selling the same mousetrap
- Ultimately, marketing is about trial and error, finding the ways that theories fit into your company’s unique market position. This comparison should give a sense for different ways to go about selling your brand.