2 Marketing Strategies Every Silicon Valley Startup Must Use to Grow


Ask any Silicon Valley founder to use the best adjective to describe the life of a Silicon Valley founder and the answer they give you will likely be tumultuous. That’s because a founder’s life in Silicon Valley is often exciting, confusing, and messy… all rolled into one day-to-day. For some of you, that might be too much of an emotional rollercoaster to voluntarily buy a ticket to ride. But for the rest of you, this sounds like exactly the life you’d like to lead.

What makes the life of not just a founder, but every executive working in a Silicon Valley startup so tumultuous is that the stakes are so high. Silicon Valley is California’s new gold rush. And just like the original Gold Rush, there are miners everywhere fighting to find the same nuggets of gold you’re looking for. This makes Silicon Valley an extremely competitive place for startups.

Where else in the world can give you such a great opportunity to become a billionaire in three years based on an idea you had this morning?

However, the only way for a Silicon Valley startup to attract both customers and investors in a crowded market is to have a great marketing strategy. Here are the two marketing strategies every Silicon Valley startup needs to use to strike gold.

Create a neon deer

In 2003, author Seth Godin shook up the marketing world with his book Purple cow. Godin said, “The key to success is finding a way to stand out – to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.” But the approach a Silicon Valley startup must take to stand out in 2021 and beyond is so different from how a company could stand out in 2003. Every brand in Silicon Valley is trying to be a cow violet.

While the goal of standing out remains the same, the method used to stand out has changed. Hence why Silicon Valley startups need to create a neon deer to get ahead.

A neon deer is such a bright mark that you can’t help but notice it. A brand that stands out even at night when the purple cow is not visible in the pasture.

While the purple cow is a mark that stands out by being remarkable, a neon deer is a mark that stands out by being distinctive, interpersonal, and nimble. And since Silicon Valley is full of startups that are still trying to stand out by being purple – but slowly the neon deer will stand out because it’s such a bright mark that you can’t help but notice it because you’ll see it or you hear about it from others. A neon deer demands the attention of its audience.

The way to create a neon deer is to create an interpersonal brand. This means it consistently reaches its target audience right where they are on social media and connects with them on a deeper level than regular brands. The brand must also have what I call a “differentiating point of emphasis”. Which means it emphasizes everything that sets it apart from what’s currently on the market at every touchpoint of its marketing.

He must also be agile, being able to adapt quickly to changes. Put these three together and you get a neon deer.

Paint the purple cow black

While creating a neon deer is an innovative marketing approach. A disruptive approach for a startup is to use the strategy of painting the purple cow black.

If a competitor in your category stands out by being a purple cow and you don’t want to take the approach of building a brand that’s a neon deer – the only other option a Silicon Valley startup has to take to survive is to paint its biggest competitor as a black cow.

This means that your biggest competitor standing out in the market looks ordinary (like the rest of the cows in the pasture). The way to do this is to target the biggest advantage that sets the competitor apart and use it against them for the benefit of your brand. For example, let’s say you’re the CMO of a Silicon Valley startup that produces commercial electric vehicles, and the biggest competitor in your market currently stands out by having the longest-lasting batteries in the industry.

You can use their own strength against them by emphasizing in your advertising that while their batteries may last longer, the materials that go into making your batteries are actually safer for the environment than your competitor’s. Those who care about the environment (most people who buy electric vehicles) will now think twice before buying a vehicle from your competitor.

The caveat to this approach is that your assertion must be true. But if so, you just painted the purple cow black taking away the biggest advantage it had in the market.

Fair warning, by taking this approach, you have now challenged your biggest frontier competitor to a duel. And if they’re quicker to pull off their ad spend or have a much larger marketing budget than you do, just like in the Wild West, it could end up being fatal for your brand.


The life of a startup in Silicon Valley will only be as good as its founders and marketing team allow it to be. To survive and thrive in the new California gold rush known as Silicon Valley, a marketing team has only two choices. Create a neon cow or paint the purple cow black. Whichever option you choose, be prepared to stick with it and claim your right. Once you do, you’ll find those gold nuggets everyone else is looking for.

Originally Posted here.


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