What Is Your Purple Cow?

Consistency in programming and performance is an integral ingredient in building a brand. The audience has to know what to expect, but is it enough to merely fulfill your brand promise? No, it’s not. Programmers should also focus on building top-of-mind awareness. But it’s a challenge to surprise your audience consistently, especially when management is cautious and resources (budgets) are tighter than ever.

Surprise Your Audience: The Purple Cow

You could pass a herd of cattle and probably not notice because it’s normal. It’s expected. Nothing is surprising. But what if one of the cows were purple? That would stand out, right? In The Purple Cow, author Seth Godin says:

In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.

Having a great product is good, but it’s table stakes to compete for attention and become a great brand. It doesn’t guarantee a win. In entertainment, being different sets you apart by creating a reason to exist, and being remarkable means you’re interesting enough to talk about. Godin says:

If you travel on an airline and they get you there safely, you don’t tell anyone. That’s what’s supposed to happen. What makes it remarkable is if it’s horrible beyond belief or if the service is so unexpected (they were an hour early! they comped my ticket because I was cute! they served flaming crêpes suzette in first class!) that you need to share it.

Predictability may be comforting, but it doesn’t excite an audience. Being remarkable is difficult, but you can do it by focusing more attention on ways to surprise your audience.

7 Ways to Surprise Your Audience

Programmers must be proactive to create excitement and surprise Here are seven ways to do it

Promos: Promos are commercials for your radio station. You’re in the entertainment business, so craft commercials that entertain, inspire curiosity and provoke the audience with an emotional appeal. Promos that are merely a collection of facts and information are a lost opportunity. For details, watch the Promo Power seminar here.

Stunts: Stunts are hard to pull off, but why should Mr. Beast get all the attention? Creating remarkable stunts demands creativity. When did you last capture the public’s imagination with a Purple Cow stunt that surprised your audience? For more information on stunts and execution, go here.

Music: Playing the right songs is essential, and a well-researched library is a critical foundation for your brand. But it’s easy for listeners to take you for granted. Examine your music strategy to ensure it delivers audience expectations andsurprises. It’s not just about playing unexpected “oh wow” songs, but also about packaging and presenting those songs in new, inspiring ways.

Promotions: What can you change in your next promotion to surprise your audience beyond “Win $1,000 five times a day?” Learn from the Epic 48 campaign that delivers a larger-than-life, “couldn’t turn it off” listening experience that inspires imagination. Each promotion should be simple, clear, and easy to play, but is infused with surprises.

Presentation: Every station falls into patterns and routines that become invisible to the audience. They eventually become numb to claims of “commercial-free music” and “all-request workdays.” They don’t even hear it anymore. build suspense into station imaging and presentation to create FOMO (fear of missing out). How can you create dramatic moments in content, promos, and teases?

Didja Hear Moments: Every day is an opportunity to inspire listeners to talk about you. Identify one thing each day that can be developed in more depth so it has the potential to cause listeners to say, “Didja hear what (show) did today?” Commit to preparing surprises every day.

New Features: Every station should constantly innovate with new promotable features. It could be specialty weekend programming, a clever way to give away prizes, or a new game on the morning show. Surprises don’t have to be big, over-the-top moments, but they do need to be interesting and promotable. This is how Disney stays fresh and familiar.


Boredom and indifference are deadly poisons. By all means, be consistent and familiar. A Purple Cow is still recognizable as a cow, but being purple makes it surprising. Challenge yourself and your team to get out of programming and promotion ruts.

The stakes are higher than ever. What are you doing to stand out in a world with increased competition for limited attention?

Pic generated by AI for Freepik.com.

Tracy Johnson is a talent coach and programming consultant. He’s the President/CEO of Tracy Johnson Media Group. His book Morning Radio has been described as The Bible of Personality Radio and has been used by personalities worldwide.

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