A core component of word of mouth is the element of being fundamentally, astonishingly, remarkably different.
Seth Godin described it best when laying out his Purple Cow manifesto for Fast Company:
While driving through France a few years ago, my family and I were enchanted by the hundreds of storybook cows grazing in lovely pastures right next to the road. For dozens of kilometers, we all gazed out the window, marveling at the beauty. Then, within a few minutes, we started ignoring 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’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow — the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows — is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible.
It’s that simple — and yet, it’s that hard. Being consistently and remarkably different requires hard work on your part. It takes a commitment to trying new things, testing new topics, and giving fans lots of reasons to talk about you.
How a word of mouth marketing supergenius does it:
As an invoicing company with a whole bunch of personality, FreshBooks is one of our favorite purple cows. Whether it’s bringing in an artist (and a customer) to create a live mural in their trade show booth to their FreshBooks Supper Club where they invite 20 to 30 customers and local bloggers to dinner whenever they travel, FreshBooks is always doing things differently.
Perhaps our favorite act of purple-y cowness from FreshBooks is when they attended Austin’s South by Southwest festival. While other brands were manning booths and buying ad space for the event, FreshBooks rolled up in an RV and served a couple hundred pancakes to fans and prospective customers — a simple, completely remarkable gesture that was easy to talk about long after the event.