Purple cows aren’t that rare at all

This is a professional platform so I am not going to spam you all with photographs of my wonderful daughter and her bravery for this year’s craniosynostosis awareness month. Instead I am going to share how having a daughter with a rare disease has changed my view of marketing.

I started out life with a different first name- Louise. My family and some of my lifelong friends still call me Louise. The problem was that I wanted a rebrand. There were so many Louises in my world especially considering the fact that I was named after my mother, so back in the days of snailmail and landlines I was faced with my post being intercepted due to a duplication of identity in my own home. I was always the steady type in school. I got good grades and I did my homework, but I wanted more. I felt like I wanted people to see past my grades to my personality and my creative flair that I had always wanted to set free. I longed to be different; different from the crowd and perhaps different from myself. So I changed my name to my middle name ‘Diane’.

It made me feel special to be different. Flash forward 20 years and I had my third baby, who was not just special like my other children, but Sara was genuinely rare! This time around being special made me feel lonely, isolated in fact. I longed to be ordinary and I grieved for the ordinary life that Sara may never have. Do I wish Sara was not burdened with this syndrome? Yes, everyday. Do I wish Sara to be anything other than her special self? Absolutely not. Will Sara want to feel special or, contrary to her mother, will she want to be just like everyone else? We’ll have to wait and see. Since Sara has been born I have seen strength in myself and in others that I may never have known. I have met so many wonderful people who do amazing work with people who are rare in different ways and they do this so often it’s commonplace for them.

Rare happens. A close relative of mine once won the lottery jackpot. Sara was born with Muenke Syndrome. Rare is not that rare at all. I have met other parents of children just like Sara. Connecting with others has left me less isolated and allowed me to see the truth about my priorities and values.

Over 20 years on I still go by Diane. I love the name. I love that it feels more me and reflects my true self more than Louise ever did. So perhaps the key is in finding truth more than being different. I feel that brand ‘Diane’ has helped me to find confidence and come out of my shell.

This is where I bring it back to design and marketing. I have always loved marketing- the creativity, the use of messaging to encourage action. As I started to see the back end a little more, I started to become skeptical about the intentions behind marketing, especially advertising. The grouping of the sales and marketing efforts to drive sales of products to an already overflowing market and a globe that was at capacity for plastic products made me want to run for the hills.

There is lots of theory in the marketing world about being different. It’s known by Seth Godin[1] as ‘remarkable’ marketing or the ‘purple cow’ theory, which I took to mean that in order to get attention for your brand you need to be new or novel or interesting. Over the past few years I have been thinking about this, and have come to feel that sometimes being different is not really what it takes. I have seen the move from the ‘product-centric’ marketplace to a ‘value-centric’ marketplace. This is where no matter how creative your marketing campaigns are, if you don’t walk the walk, your customers will see through your ‘shop-front’ and refuse to do business. This is where I feel that you need to start with the why[2] as described by ‘Simon Sinek’ in his Ted Talk entitled ‘How great leaders inspire action’ https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action  and figure out who you are first. If being different is important for you as a brand to feel more you, just like it was and still is for me, then your branding and marketing strategy needs to reflect this. Then go and find a purple cow. If, on the other hand you just want to make a difference you just need your branding and marketing to show the world your values, then walk your walk and people will follow.

If you dig deeper into the Godin’s purple cow theory, he describes how being remarkable is actually not just about getting attention through big changes or through advertising.

“Remarkable isn’t always about changing the biggest machine in your factory. It can be the way you answer the phone, launch a new brand, or price a revision to your software.” So actually being remarkable isn’t just about being totally different to who you are just for the sake of it. This doesn’t sound that rare to me- this is just sound business practice, but once again it starts with finding your truth, being the best you can be according to your values and communicating that message across your organization and into the wider world.

As a teenager I needed a rebrand to communicate my truth. As an adult I needed to peel back to the truth once more.

Marketing for me has become about truth. It has become not just about being different with a cool name but about feeling like yourself and connecting with others rather than feeling isolated through trying to be different.

Interestingly, this started as an article about what I learned from Sara about marketing, and purple happens to be the colour that represents craniosynostosis, and only this evening as I spammed my Instagram feed with pictures of Sara, it lit up with purple hearts in support of her difference, her truth and other people’s acceptance of her. My truth no longer comes in the form of purple cows, but rather purple hearts.

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I have felt that I wanted to change the world through my work and I now know that my value lies not in my skills that create an interesting campaign or an innovative logo design. My value lies in helping brands to find their truth and show the world.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Purple-Cow-New-Transform-Remarkable/dp/1591843170

[2] https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

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