Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Career Advancement: Be The 'Purple Cow'

You may not have read the book Purple Cow by marketing expert, bestselling author, successful entrepreneur and renowned blogger, Seth Godin.

Or maybe you'd heard that you could transform your business by being remarkable, (that's actually the sub-title of the book that's sold half a million copies worldwide), but you haven't gotten around to reading the book yet.

Or perhaps you haven't even heard it mentioned in your business circles.

Whatever the case may be, the key message from the book is clear - you cannot expect to succeed in business if you become complacent (a.k.a. boring) by doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results. Even Einstein is believed to have declared that as insanity.

Godin advocates putting a 'purple cow' into your business. This means differentiating your business by using specific actions to stand out in a herd of brown cows, (a metaphor for the playing field), to become remarkable. This is necessary because being remarkable---and not 'good enough' or 'very good'---leads to success. The author's focus was on the advertising sector, so all you marketing, advertising and sales pundits might want to go read (or re-read) the book.

Why you should strive to become the 'purple cow'

What I found interesting about the 'purple cow' advocacy is that you can apply the key message in your career advancement.

Most of us have qualifications and experiences that could be matched by others. That's the harsh truth. Got a Ph.D. in applied mathematics? Join the club. Possess intimate knowledge of how to grow a tech business in Nigeria? Yes, there's a group of experts in that camp too. Have unique insights about space technology? Just hop onto Quora, ask the most intriguing questions and prepared to be amazed by the answers you receive...from people in the know.

Excluding those experts whose intellect and skills are unravelled by us normal folks, we're all required to compete in the corporate jungle to stay relevant.

One way you can become more effective in your career is to become the 'purple cow'. Below are some points to consider:

1) Become more knowledgeable in your role

Basically do everything within reason to become the subject matter expert, with or without the support of your employer. So enrol for that executive MBA; study for and get the necessary certification; and/or get advice from wise mentors. It may take some time to achieve this goal but cherish the journey and stay the course.

An inspiring story of African-American women employed by the U.S' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1960s, has been captured in the film Hidden Figures. The film, which was nominated for a 2017 Oscar, highlights the untold story of how  the work of three African-American women was instrumental to the U.S space mission at that time. The women had to overcome discrimination in the male-dominated industry to follow their passion in science-based professions. Despite the odds (being women and a racial minority), they made an impact.

I've heard it affirmed that excellence is hard to ignore.

Therefore, be phenomenal in what you do. Be that 'purple cow' in the herd of very-good-but-common brown cows.

2) Sharpen your communication skills

Without a good application of the three types of communication---oral, nonverbal and written---you will be unremarkable, and hence forgettable.

So practise those communication skills to strengthen your business relationships. Such skills will become valuable weapons in your arsenal when you're seeking to inform the Board, to persuade your audience, to refute claims or to confirm ideas.

Note that numerous resources abound to guide you in your goal of mastering communication.

A) For oral communication

To deliver strong pitches and nail public speaking, look no further than Kolarele Sonaike. As a Nigerian barrister practicing in London, the President of the 100 Black Men of London movement, and founder of the The Great Speech Consultancy, he gives practical advice that people at different levels in their careers could use. Evidently, a practicing barrister is someone who knows a few things about delivering compelling speeches.

I also recommend that you check out The Genard Method - specialised theatre-based public speaking training. Its founder, Dr. Gary Genard, a stage actor, speech coach and professor of communication, brings his wealth of experience on the stage to help professionals become more dynamic speakers for leadership positions. 

I regularly read blogs and articles from both professionals and must admit that they know their onions.

B) For nonverbal communication

It's important to become aware of nonverbal cues and to practise certain desired traits you admire in those of authority. By doing so, you too could have gravitas. You would also display 'executive presence', charisma or whatever fancy name that is given to the intangible thing you exude which epitomises confidence and influence.

I often advise participants in my coaching sessions to watch some TED talks for inspiration. Observe how the speakers use facial expressions, movements, gestures and pauses to strengthen their deliveries.

C) For written communication

This is a legitimate challenge for most professionals. Anyone is capable of becoming an effective business writer. However, like anything worth doing well, it takes discipline. 

To begin, read tips on how to become a better writer. Then note how your six-component Communications Strategy will be invaluable when you plan/lead projects, launch initiatives or implement change programmes. Next, overcome your phobia of formal writing with the actionable tips given. Finally, become an expert in crafting powerful emails that guarantee results.

Don't settle for just being 'good enough'. Go all out to become memorable by elevating your communication skills. Practise them in season and out of season, and you will be amazed at how quickly you improve.

Be that 'purple cow' in the herd of good-enough-but-boring brown cows.


The quest to being remarkable should begin with the awareness that differentiation is necessary for career advancement.

So become more knowledgeable in your role and use your (hopefully) newly enhanced communication skills to boost your competence.

Become the 'purple cow' and strive to consistently improve by bringing unmatched and undisputed value to the organisation.

And don't forget to thank Seth Godin when you advance rapidly through the ranks.

Over to you:

In what other ways can you advance your career by being remarkable?

Kindly post your comments below.

P.S - I've added a new page to this blog: Clients. It can be accessed from the homepage. Kindly take a look. Remember that I provide customised communications coaching for individuals, groups and companies. Contact me for details if you need help.

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Need help with improving your communication skills?

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v  Communication training sessions for  your staff and executives;
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N.B:   First image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Third image courtesy of Iosphere; via freedigitalphotos.net. Fourth image courtesy of SurasakiStock; via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image courtesy of Master Isolated Images; via freedigitalphotos.net.


  1. Kolarele Sonaike (via LinkedIn)1 March 2017 at 09:32

    Excellent advice on career advancement. Not a field I've much experience with so thx to Lucille Ossai, MSc, BA for the article.

  2. Thanks for reading Kola and for sharing the article.


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