The Purple Cow, Otaku, and Pottery

nesting bowl set by Lee Wolfe

In The Purple Cow, business guru Set Godin outlined how to transform your business by being remarkable.  The basic idea is simple: when you drive through the country, the first few cows you spot are interesting, but after awhile, the cows become boring. What would stand out is a purple cow. That would be remarkable.

In today’s world of abundant products, almost everything is analogous to a cow. In pottery, bowls are cows. Every potter makes a bowl. To stand out, to be remarkable, you need to make a bowl that appeals to a small niche group. It won’t appeal to everyone, which is okay. It needs to appeal to a group that has an ‘otaku’ for something. As Godin uses the word, ‘otaku’ means more fervor than fandom and just slightly less than obsession. If this group likes your product, they will spread the word about it for you.

I’ve made these flower bowls for 10 years. This year, I redesigned them slightly, to appeal to food stylists. As you can see in the photo above, my bowls make amazing graphic shapes when shot from above, and the colors showcase food perfectly. Food stylists have an otaku for bowls.

My plates and dinnerware are now being used by a few stylists on the verge of publishing. That will get my work published and distributed without any effort of my own. When foodies see my plates in well curated cookbooks, they will want those plates. This happened on its own accord, but Godin’s book made me aware of why it happened. I am now looking to have my flower bowls follow this same path.

minimalist dinnerware

Using Godin’s strategy makes marketing much easier for me. I’ve always been into doing something a little off the mainstream path anyway. And I’ve long been mindful of shaping pottery that visually enhances food. The last piece to fall into place for was was finding a group with an otaku for what I do.

Can you think of a niche group that has an otaku for something you make? If not, can you think of a niche group that has an otaku for something you COULD make?

by: Lee Wolfe


Nicolas Hall said...

Wonderful post Lee! I love your way of approaching that aspect of artistic success and I adore that analogy of the cows in the country.

From day one, I knew that I wanted to seek out niches with all of my offerings. The number of examples I could list are many but the easiest way to tie them all together is to say there are things I make that NEVER see the light of day in the shops I have here because they are spoken for before I have the chance to make any for the shops.

Word of mouth and good press in those particular devotees blogs and circles has spread the word better than any way I could for myself.

I suppose the one piece of advice I would add is to put equal time into going after what is niche oriented as well as thinking about what is trendy or popular and I think you'll see the small market offers the better chance for sales in the long run. . . unless you really do come up with, and hit on, that one in a million idea. . . but then, I was never much of a lottery player myself.

steinschmuckdesign said...

Love your post Lee and I can see your progress on your Photoshoots so much. And I feel this will forward you even more to your niche of People cause they love it!!!
As you know a part of me is fully in to minimalist ( stunning Photo ) and I am sure this will atract even more People to your niche!

Eve's Little Earthlings said...

What you say about niches is very true. My niche has served me well over the years. I like what Nicolas said about thinking about what is trending as well. I have branched out from my niche and I find that is also very fufilling and great for a change of pace.

Viktoria said...

very interesting post!
Thinking about my niche....

Lauren said...

Fabulous post....I am thinking of my niche too. Im all over the board- thanks for reminding me to "think"!

TuckooandMooCow said...

This couldn't have come at a better time, Lee! I've been thinking of exactly whose "otaku" my jewelry appeals to recently.

Love the analogy about the cows!

Thanks so much for sharing.