09 February 2015

2015 Books: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

David Hansen suggested a group of us take a read through Seth Godin's book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. While I wasn't able to keep up with the group discussion online, I did make an attempt at reading Purple Cow last week as part of my efforts to be better about reading/studying professional stuff (and writing about it here as well).

On the whole, I came away unimpressed.

Don't get me wrong: it's obvious Seth Godin has had good stuff to offer in the past. No one sells as many copies of their books as he does without having great content. Well, no one except E.L. James, but since Purple Cow isn't about BDSM and the ennui of handsome rich people, we'll just assume Godin's other books have great content. But before giving up halfway through the book, I struggled to find something helpful for my work as a pastor and leader of a church community. It's not that Godin doesn't have much to offer; my problem is this is not anything new for me, personally.

What I came away with was this: the secret to being successful is being remarkable. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, or I misunderstood the premise, but I guess I thought that's been the point all along. Godin goes to great lengths to demonstrate the fading effectiveness of marketing and advertising, but as a member of Generation X, I've been aware of this for well over 20 years. I was part of the first generation that knew it was being targeted from childbirth to be a consumer, and most of us quickly grew so jaded to advertising and marketing that, frankly, we don't believe any of it. In fact, we've developed such a resistance that we've swung the pendulum past the point of healthy skepticism well into the range of dedicated institutional aversion. "Remarkable" is the ONLY thing most of us find even remotely interesting or worth further exploration - so Godin's claim in Purple Cow isn't falling so much on deaf ears as it is falling on the ears of the choir, in my case. I agree wholeheartedly - I just don't find it new information.

Granted, I'm not in business, so my perspective skews differently than some. But as someone who grew up in a church that expected attendance and loyalty no matter how bad the "product" was ("product" here being a faith that transforms lives and actually affects the community in which it lives), I've been fighting this battle since I first felt a calling to ministry in the 1990s. I WANT my church to be remarkable - and if Godin's book can help others see why it has to be done, then I'm all for it. It's just not anything new for me.

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