Being Very Good is One of the Worst Things You Can Do: Be A Purple Cow, Instead

Devon-McDonald by

I recently moved into my very first home, and while I was painting the walls of my new living room (painting selfie featured to the right) I had a bunch of TED Talks on in the background to keep myself entertained.

Yes, I’m a geek. But I’ve come to terms with that.

Ten talks in (I had a lot of walls and trim to paint. Okay not really — I bought a 750-square-foot apartment in the city — I’m just a slow painter), I heard Seth Godin’s TED Talk on getting your ideas to spread, and was blown away. I listened to it three times. That’s three walls worth!

I couldn’t help but think about OpenView and our portfolio companies. From a professional standpoint, there is nothing more that I want than for our firm and these companies to be successful. I emailed my team and asked that they would all listen to Godin’s talk, and now I am writing this post in hopes that it inspires you to try to become something out of the ordinary — a purple cow. No, this is not the paint fumes talking. Check out the talk and it will make sense.

A great lesson for staying motivated and accelerating in Q2: This quarter don’t settle for “very good” — be remarkable.

If you don’t have 17 mins to watch Godin’s TED Talk, here are three great quotes from Seth to sink your teeth into:

Awesome Quote #1:

“What marketers used to do is make average products for average people. That’s what mass marketing is. Smooth out the edges; go for the center; that’s the big market. They would ignore the geeks, and God forbid, the laggards. It was all about going for the center. But in a world where the TV-industrial complex is broken, I don’t think that’s a strategy we want to use any more. I think the strategy we want to use is to not market to these people because they’re really good at ignoring you. But market to these people because they care. These are the people who are obsessed with something. And when you talk to them they’ll listen because they like listening — it’s about them. And if you’re lucky, they’ll tell their friends on the rest of the curve, and it’ll spread. It’ll spread to the entire curve.” 

Awesome Quote #2:

“And my parable here is you’re driving down the road and you see a cow, and you keep driving because you’ve seen cows before. Cows are invisible. Cows are boring.Who’s going to stop and pull over and say, “Oh, look, a cow.” Nobody. But if the cow was purple — isn’t that a great special effect? If the cow was purple, you’d notice it for a while. I mean, if all cows were purple you’d get bored with those, too. The thing that’s going to decide what gets talked about, what gets done, what gets changed, what gets purchased, what gets built, is: is it remarkable? And “remarkable” is a really cool word because we think it just means neat, but it also means worth making a remark about. And that is the essence of where idea diffusion is going.”

Awesome Quote #3:

“The riskiest thing you can do now is be safe. Proctor and Gamble knows this, right? The whole model of being Proctor and Gamble is always about average products for average people. That’s risky. The safe thing to do now is to be at the fringes, be remarkable. And being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do. Very good is boring. Very good is average. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making a record album, or you’re an architect, or you have a tract on sociology. If it’s very good, it’s not going to work, because no one’s going to notice it.”

Do you have advice for how salespeople and marketers can stand out from the pack? I’d love to hear your thoughts!