Marketing Case Study /

The traditional lighted sign outside Diamond Jim’s Auto Sales in Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Giving Birth to a Purple Cow in Milwaukee Wisconsin

The used car marketing case study

I see the concept, made famous by Seth Godin, of creating a purple cow in marketing. A ‘Purple Cow’ as Seth puts it, is creating that truly unique product, brand, or marketing concept that will make your business different from all the rest.

A simple concept … don’t you think. It is such an obvious concept, but not many businesses around really adopt this principle. Or, if they do, it is so subtle it doesn’t get much attention in this media saturated world we live in.

The Used Car Commodity

In an interview I heard recently Godin claimed in many markets it becomes essential just for survival. Lets take for example the used car sales niche. The market is flooded with extremely similar products. Car dealers beat each other up over price, mileage, condition, or any other small point they can make.

But, if you roll up and down a street  that has several used car lots on it (birds of a feather do flock together … I guess) there is barely any difference between the businesses themselves … especially in their advertising.

The Claude Hopkins Effect

While hanging around one of these used car lots I discovered the owner and his entire family had a real love for cars. I mean … way beyond just as a means to make money. Subtle differences in paint or body characteristics deemed certain cars as crap and other very similar in style were gorgeous. I told them they needed to let that passion come through in their advertising.

Tell people why they like this or that … tell people why this set of tires are better or why this body style is better. Just because these things are obvious amongst dealers doesn’t mean the general public knows. People on the inside of the business have a hard time seeing the business as the rest of the world does. The obvious to them is rarely obvious to the actual customers.

The Purple Cow Enters the Room

What if a dealer stood apart from the rest of his market by selling cars only through an email list. The list would be free to join and would only the list would have access to one of a kind cars not offered to the general public.

If the cars picked for this list were special cars … collector cars … could a list be assembled of buyers nationwide … would the existence of this list gain nation wide fame with collectors clamoring to get on it,  just to get the opportunity to buy.

I can not take credit for this idea. There is a wine distributor who only sells wine through his email list.

The guy is Jon Rimmerman and the name of his company is called Garagiste. I’m on the list just to study the beautiful prose he weaves into his emails and to really take a look at his business model. Email marketing has been around for a while.

But, has it ever been used to sell wine?

It has now.

Could it be effective to sell cars? I think if the car was right for the audience signed up to the list … it would work.

I’d like to find out.

Would it work to sell cars to the average consumer?


This would be a niche market, but it would bring notoriety and uniqueness to the dealer that does it. The purple cow we are looking for.

The dealers day-to-day business could go on the same way. Selling cars to the general public in much the same way they did before with just the added bonus of being known as the dealer who sells select cars by email only.

If you are interested in hearing another case study of a global parts retailer follow this link over to the page on another part of my site.

I am always looking for clients to work with, so if you have a business that you would like to infuse with a fresh perspective on marketing, precisely engineered copy to sell your product, or maybe creating your own purple cow, give me a call at 608-561-8691 or drop me an email to