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Marketing Word of Mouth: What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

Posted by Ellie Becker on Fri, Dec 16, 2011 @ 12:12 PM

What's Your Purple Goldfish by Stan Phelps Book CoverThis morning I had breakfast with my friend and marketing colleague Stan Phelps, Chief Solutions Officer at Synergy Events. Stan and I were talking about The Purple Goldfish Project, an almost two-year book venture of his that he’s trying to wrap up for an early January publishing date.

For the book, he’s compiling 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe, which he terms Purple Goldfish. A Purple Goldfish is when a company “gives little unexpected extras” (G.L.U.E.) as added value. It’s Purple Goldfish that become the stuff of positive word of mouth.

Stan is in the high 900’s toward his goal of 1,001 - but time's growing short. I decided I’d do my best to help get him there. If you think it’s easy to come up with examples of Purple Goldfish, it’s not! I wracked my brain all last evening and it took me til half way through breakfast to come up with one that made Stan’s eyes light up. Here it is:

Some years ago I went to get into my car in my parking garage to find it had been hit. A Good Samaritan had left a note on a scrap of paper on the windshield saying they’d witnessed the hit and run. They gave me the make, model, color and license plate number of the car.

I duly made a police report and informed my insurance company of many years, State Farm. The representative I spoke with obtained the police report and ok’d my claim less my $500 deductible, which I paid.

Several months later I received a call from State Farm’s investigations department asking if I had any documentation about the incident other than the police report. I had kept the original windshield note in my accident file and faxed a copy.

Six months after that, I received a check for $500 from State Farm. There was no explanation, so I called before depositing it to be sure there was no mistake.  Here’s what I was told:

“When you gave the investigations department a copy of the witness’ note, they saw that the police officer had gotten one number of the license plate incorrect on his report. We were then able to track down the person who hit your car and go after his insurance company for reimbursement of your claim and deductible, which we refunded to you.”

WOW!! If that’s not a Purple Goldfish, I don’t know what is! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told this story over the years.

The positive word of mouth has, I’m sure, gotten State Farm far more than the $500 that I never would have known about, were it not for their proactive, honest customer relationship building – not to mention their persistence.

If you have any Purple Goldfish tales, please share them in the comments and I’ll pass them along to Stan. You can follow his progress and acquire the book when it’s published at

Topics: Online Marketing, Marketing, Ellie Becker, What's Your Purple Goldfish, Stan Phelps, State Farm, Lagniappe

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