Tuesday, September 30

Book Review: Purple Cow

Hated it. I knew nothing about the author (Seth Godin) before reading the book, it was just a title I had heard tossed around at a conference or on a podcast, I can't recall. After reading the book and asking myself how could it be so widely heralded, I did some research on Godin. According to the good old Wikipedia, he has "one of the most popular blogs in the world" and "is the author of 11 bestselling books." I've not read any of his other books, nor do I read his blog, so my initial theory is that Purple Cow is simply riding the coat tails of his other successes. Of course, I'm not completely blind to the possibility that I just might not get it. But back to the book...

The book is short, and the chapters are really short. Each chapter averages maybe two or three paragraphs. It reads very much like a blog, and I'd guess it's essentially a scrapbook of Godin's posts. If I hadn't been privy to the blogging phenomena, I'd probably have described this book as The Art of War for marketing, a collection of quips and anecdotes.

Again Wikipedia sums up the book's premise pretty well:

"...marketers no longer have the power to command the attention of anyone they choose, whenever they choose. ... Godin asserts that the only way to spread the word about an idea is for that idea to earn the buzz by being remarkable."

It struck me as a lot of armchair quarterbacking. The author builds some pretty big bridges over the chasm between cause and effect with bold and broad statements along the lines of "product X was crazy successful because of tactic Y," glossing over any possible nuances of the relationship between the two or other possible external market factors. As I read it, my mind kept conjuring up the image of Andy Rooney and his rants at the end of every episode of 60 Minutes.

In summary, I don't regret reading the book, I just didn't enjoy it. Now I know who Godin is and what he preaches so the next time I encounter his name I'll be able to better participate in the conversation. The book also made me think; unfortunately it made me think the author is more about braggadocio than pragmatism.


LessAllan said...

Seth's books invoke thought and inspiration for me. I haven't read "The Purple Cow" but I will do so, just so I can call you a moron for not liking it.

seth godin said...

Hey, Ted, where have you been?

Glad you read the book (many years later) and sorry you didn't like it. If you don't like short and provocative riffs, you'll hate my blog, I promise.

Just FYI, I'm told by happy readers that the book has provoked people to start things, fix things, earn a lot and have fun doing it. Doesn't work for everyone, of course.