Become the “Purple Cow” in Your Market

Written by Tim Fortier

Tim Fortier is a Quantitative Model Developer and Portfolio Manager specializing in rules-based investment strategies. He has over 30 years of experience within the financial service industry.

November 21, 2019

I would like to begin this post with an excerpt from one of my favorite marketing books – “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin.

“When my family and I were driving through France a few years ago, were were enchanted by the hundreds of storybook cows grazing on picturesque pastures right next to the highway. For dozen of kilometers, we all gazed out the window, marveling about how beautiful everything was.

The within tweny minutes, we started ingoring the cows. The new cows were just like the old cows, and what was once amazing was now common. Worse than common…It was boring.

Cows, after you have seen them for a while, are boring. They may be perfect cows, attractive cows, cows with great personalities, cows lit by beautiful light, but they are stil boring.

A Purple Cow, though. Now that would be interesting.”

You see, there is a big problem plaguing the financial service industry today.

To the consumer…your prospect…sorry for this…please don’t be mad….you are just an ordinary cow. In Seth’s words…a brown cow.

There I said it.

Don’t believe me. Ha. Try this then.

Pull up the website for ten random financial advisors and I will bet dollars for doughnuts that you find phrases like these…on every site!

“Develop a solution that meets your needs.”

“Provide comprehensive financial planning.”

“Act in the best interests of our clients.”

“We are fiduciaries”.

“Deliver investment programs.”


“Meet Your Needs.”

Blah, Blah,Blah.

A 2014 study by Pershing entitled “What Top Advisors Say and What Do Investors Really Think” did a “web harvesting” study and the above results are exactly what they found.

A more recent 2018 study by Pershing revealed that over 60% of investors think that all advisors make the same promises, making it hard to tell the difference between them.

Do you see the similarities now with brown cows?

There is another axiom about marketing that must be understood. And that is this: The brain craves something new. When something is truly new, your brain will focus and single it out.

But, when the brain perceives something as old…something it has seen before, your brain, in an attempt to conserve energy, will ignore whatever it is that is craving attention.

This is simply how people are “hardwired” and it goes all the back to our early survival mechanisms. My point is that this is something that is hard to overcome if you are a marketer. (and believe me on this one – You are a marketer)

And it’s the reason why we see new and bolder claims in ads when there is a lot of competition. It becomes necessary in order to capture the attention of the human brain.

Now, sensational advertising copy won’t last a nanosecond on a compliance officer’s desk so you had better find a different way to compete. The good news is that it’s easy to do with just a little bit of thought.

Here’s how.

First, clients must know, like and trust you. Miss the pitch on any of those and you will be walking to the dugout guaranteed.

Good marketing begins with truly understanding the desires of your target market.

In a crowded profession, you need to set yourself apart. You need to craft your communication (and by the communication I mean EVERYTHING including not just what YOU say…but also what your website says, your clients say and anything and anyone else) so that you become…

…the Purple Cow.

How do you do that?

You begin by defining your firm’s attributes and your own unique skills and background and then defining that in terms of benefits for your clients. What’s important is that your message resonates with your client on an emotional level.

Let me give you an example.

You could simply say that you provide investment programs based on academic theory.



But, let’s assume that you are targeting investors who are either nearing retirement or who have recently retired. It’s important to be specific.

If you now said something to the effect of “we manage your portfolio in such a way to maximize the gains during periods of market growth and automatically protect your portfolio from severe market declines so that you can maintain the lifestyle you desire”, you have now hit two key emotions –

Emotion # 1 is the fear of missing out…clients don’t enjoy watching the market rise from the sidelines but what keeps many investors out of the market is…

Emotion # 2 – investors hate losing money even more. Psychologists estimate that the pain of losing is about twice the pleasure of gaining. This is called loss aversion.

But…if you can craft a message that hits both emotional hot buttons…you win…and so does your client.

Now obviously you need to be able to actually deliver on the promise (and this incidentally is how every Drawbridge Strategy model is built) but assuming you can…you are suddenly sounding a lot different than the adviser down the street who is pitching product or pie charts like nearly every other advisor.

I will repeat again what I have said in a previous post…clients will connect with you at a different level if you can clearly articulate a process that emotionally resonates with them. Focus on your process and fill in the blank with product that fulfills your process. Do not begin with product unless you want to moo like every other brown cow wearing a suit.

If you are interested in reading the entire 2018 Pershing report, ” Advisor Value Propositions: How Advisors Showcase Their Value to Investors and What Investors Secretly Think”, I have made it downloadable below. (A special thank you to Kristin Shea for recently sharing this on LinkedIn)

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