Want a Remarkable Product? Avoid These 3 Traps

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Purple Cow" by Seth Godin. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you think you might have a remarkable product? Do you want to stand out from your competition?

There are several concepts that do not make a remarkable product, but are commonly mistaken for one. Here are three of the biggest ones.

Read on to find out if you really do have a remarkable product.

What Is Not a Remarkable Product

There are several concepts that are not remarkability, but are commonly mistaken for it. Here are three of the biggest ones.

1. “Good” Is Not Remarkable

First of all, good is the opposite of a remarkable product. “Good” products designed to have broad appeal actually have no appeal. They’re boring, and therefore much more likely to fail than exceptional products with smaller target audiences.

Nobody talks about an experience that was exactly what they expected it to be, like an airline that gets you where you’re going and doesn’t do much more than that. It will be the remarkable products, whether they’re exceptionally good or exceptionally bad, that get attention. If that airline served prime rib for dinner, that would get talked about; if the pilot did loop-de-loops and barrel rolls mid-flight, that would get talked about in a different way.

On a related note, compromises are almost guaranteed to result in unremarkable products. Compromise is about finding broader appeal, getting people onboard who wouldn’t be otherwise. It goes against the very nature of the Purple Cow.

For example, habanero pecan ice cream is an extreme flavor combination, while vanilla is a compromise that almost everyone can agree on. However, while habanero pecan ice cream will have a much smaller market than vanilla, vanilla’s already been done to death; your company won’t grow based on vanilla ice cream. Remember: In nearly every market, the boring thing with mass appeal already exists. Compromises will almost always take you closer to that boring, already-entrenched thing.

For this reason, if you’ve tasked other people with creating a remarkable product, leave them alone. Let them create the remarkable product you’ve asked them to, without watering it down with questions and compromises.

2. Ridiculous Is Not Remarkable

Second, ridiculous is not the same thing as remarkable. Running an upside-down commercial filled with fart jokes would be ridiculous, and it might even attract some attention, but probably not the kind you want. Remember, you don’t just need attention, you need people to want your product. 

The exception to this is if the ridiculousness ties into your business somehow; South Park made it big on just this sort of advertising. 

3. Cheap Is Not Remarkable

Third, cheap is not remarkable. True, everyone loves a good bargain, but don’t rely on cheap pricing to move your product. The problem with this approach is that you’ll inevitably end up in a price war with your competitors; if they’re bigger than you, you’ll lose. 

Again, there is an exception to this: If you have some breakthrough in production or transport that will allow you to sell your remarkable product significantly cheaper than your competitors, then you can rely on pricing to get attention. In other words, you can win the price war with a different type of remarkable product.

Checklist: Is My Product Remarkable?

Before starting a new marketing venture, refer to the following checklist to make sure your product is following Purple Cow principles. Be brutally honest with yourself while working through the list.

  • My product is significantly different from its competitors in at least one way.
  • My product is truly remarkable, not just ridiculous or “good.”
  • My product was not specifically designed to have broad appeal.
  • My product is not the result of a compromise or of “playing it safe.”
  • My product will advertise itself through a remarkable design feature or function.
  • My product comes with a way for innovators to advertise it to their friends (such as a catchy slogan). 
Want a Remarkable Product? Avoid These 3 Traps

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Seth Godin's "Purple Cow" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Purple Cow summary :

  • Why you have to be remarkable to succeed
  • How to help your business stand out
  • How to leverage a single remarkable product for all it's worth

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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