‘You’re a Purple Cow’ & Other Marketing Lies

You're a Purple Cow

‘tis the season…. to dole out nice-sounding marketing advice whether it’s true or not and hope people believe it.



As you’re buttoning up that 2019 marketing plan, checking it twice, and getting final approvals – we know you’re also doing research into what ELSE you should be thinking about for the upcoming year. As you do, here’s our take on the best advice to ignore this holiday season. We all need a little help sifting through the crap sometimes. We got you.

3 Marketing Lies to Avoid In 2019

Lie: You’re a special snowflake purple cow

It’s a tricky thing. Working to simplify complex marketing concepts in a way that makes them actionable … without oversimplifying them SO much that they are (a) no longer true and (b) dangerous in the wrong hands.

For example, some argue that all the good words are taken. That, instead of paying attention to traditional search engine optimization (aka understanding your audience and how they search for things so that you can put relevant words on the page) that you should make up your own words. It’s difficult to show up for the terms everyone else is competing on. It’s a lot easier to get visibility for a word you create (ie no one else knows about).

Don’t use the words your audience and your competitors do. Be a purple cow and blaze your own path.

Which is great advice – until it’s terrible advice.
Because you’re not a purple cow – until you are.

I’m all about being weird. About highlighting what makes you different and creating a language between you and your audience that is simply yours. But before Nike could be Nike, people had to understand that Nike sells shoes and athletic equipment. Before Tampax could be Tampax, people had to understand that Tampax sells products related to feminine hygiene. They don’t know that, and the search engines don’t know that, until you tell them with your words.

So yes, blaze your own path.

But before you can be better, you must be equal (hat tip Bruce Clay for that evergreen life advice).

SEO matters because your audience matters. Talking like them is how you give them, and the search engines, cues that you are the special snowflake purple cow they want. Don’t expect them to figure it out. Use the words that say what you do.

Lie: If it’s working for them, it’ll work for you.

We’re all walking piles of imposter syndrome at times. It’s one thing to go get a bad haircut because you stole it from someone who has an entirely different face structure than do. It’s another to make an emotional decision related to your business that you sink a bunch of money into because you assume competitors know something you do not.

Here are three truths to hold onto as you move in 2019:

  1. Never assume the person next to you knows what the hell is going on.
  2. Never assume they are happier, richer, or more successful than you.
  3. Never, ever copy a competitor’s marketing tactics based on the assumption they’re correct.

Why? Because you don’t know. You don’t know what’s working for them and what is bleeding them dry. You don’t know why they’re running a campaign or dropping dollars into an area. We don’t have access to anyone’s life or business data – so don’t make your decisions based on their experiments.

Instead, put that energy into using your data to make the best decisions for you. We focus a lot on sales enablement. Bringing the Sales and Marketing teams together to help a business learn more about what it’s doing – what’s driving revenue growth, what’s getting in the way, what are they TRYING to do? Understanding obstacles makes it a whole lot easier to devise a marketing plan that removes them and focuses on the good stuff. And sometimes that means taking a totally different approach than your competitors. It means finding a side door while everyone else is bum rushing the front entrance. It’s what the “good words are taken” approach from above attempts to say but with more responsibility.

Finding a side door may mean:

  • Taking contrarian positioning.
  • Smarter uses of technology.
  • Going old school when others are focused on the shiny new thing.

The best thing you can do for your business in 2019 is to be in YOUR business, no someone else’s.

Lie: Personalize all the things!

We’re big data nerds around here. We’re into mapping the funnel, giving brands the conversion-to-sale numbers they’re after, and leveraging any and all opportunities that exist for gaining customer insights.

What we’re NOT into, though, is using data in creepy ways. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

The truth is, a little personalization goes a long way. Adding in a few nuggets that show you understand who customers are and their problems can make someone feel like you get them. It creates an instant familiarity and comfort.

Too much personalization and you end up with a restraining order. When you reference too much – like the date they visited, exactly what they searched for or looked at (the latter can be done non-creepily), or when their phone rings the instant they land on your site – you make people uncomfortable and then they go away.

It’s great that you’re collecting and storing information, know when to keep some of it to yourself.


Be discriminating. About what you read, who you listen to, and what advice you act on. Just because something worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your business, and just because someone other people think is smart swears by something doesn’t mean it’s true.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.