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If you ask any founder in Silicon Valley to choose the best adjective to describe the life of a founder in Silicon Valley, they will almost certainly choose tumultuous. That’s because a day in the life of a Silicon Valley startup may be exhilarating, confusing, and chaotic all at the same time.

That may be too much of an emotional rollercoaster for some of you to willingly purchase a ticket to ride. For the rest of you, though, that seems just like the kind of life you’d want to live.

The fact that the stakes are so high makes the life of not only a founder, but also every executive who works at a startup in Silicon Valley, so chaotic. The next California Gold Rush is in Silicon Valley.

And, much like in the original Gold Rush, there are miners all over the place looking for the same gold nuggets you are. As a result, Silicon Valley is a very competitive environment for companies.

What other country in the planet can offer you the chance to become a billionaire in three years based on a brilliant idea you had this morning?

However, in a crowded industry, a solid marketing strategy is the only option for a business in Silicon Valley to attract both customers and investors. Here are the two marketing methods that every Silicon Valley business must employ in order to succeed.

Construct a Neon Deer

With his book Purple Cow, author Seth Godin shook up the marketing world in 2003. “The key to success is to find a way to stand out — to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins,” Godin explained.

However, a Silicon Valley startup’s approach to standing out in 2021 and beyond is vastly different from how a company could stand out in 2003. In Silicon Valley, every company aspires to be a purple cow.

While the goal of standing out remains the same, the means by which it is accomplished has evolved. As a result, in order to succeed in Silicon Valley, companies must construct a neon deer.

A neon deer is a brand that is so bright that it can’t be missed. Even when the purple cow isn’t visible in the pasture at night, the brand sticks out.

A neon deer, on the other hand, stands out by being distinctive, personable, and agile, and the purple cow stands out by being remarkable. Because Silicon Valley is so filled with firms trying to break apart by being purple — but slowly — the neon deer will stand out because it’s a brand that’s so brilliant that you can’t help but notice it because you’ll either see it or hear about it from others.

A neon deer seeks attention from its viewers.

The best method to make a neon deer is to develop an interpersonal brand. This means it’s always reaching out to its target audience on social media and connecting with them on a more personal level than other firms.

The brand must also have a “differentiating point of emphasis,” as I call it. Which means it promotes whatever it is that makes it distinct from what’s currently in the marketplace at every touchpoint of its marketing.

It must also be adaptable, allowing it to quickly adapt to changes. When you combine all three of those elements, you get a neon deer.

The Purple Cow should be painted black

While constructing a neon deer is a unique marketing strategy. The strategy of painting the purple cow black is a disruptive method for a startup.

If a competitor in your sector stands out by becoming a purple cow, and you don’t want to go with the method of producing a neon deer brand, the only other choice for a firm in Silicon Valley to survive is to paint its largest opponent as a black cow.

This entails making your most prominent competition appear ordinary in the marketplace (like the rest of the cows in the pasture). The best approach to achieve this is to target the most distinguishing feature of your competitor’s product and use it against them for your own brand’s benefit.

Let’s imagine you’re the CMO of a Silicon Valley business that makes commercial electric vehicles, and your greatest competitor in the market now stands out by having the industry’s longest-lasting batteries.

You can use their own strength against them by emphasizing in your advertising that, while your batteries may last longer, the materials used to make them are really safer for the environment than your competitor’s. Those who care about the environment (the majority of people who buy electric vehicles) will now think twice about buying one of your competitor’s automobiles.

The limitation to this strategy is that your claim must be true. But if it is, you’ve simply turned the purple cow black by removing its largest competitive edge.

You’ve just challenged your largest competitor on the frontier to a duel by taking this strategy. And, just like in the Wild West, if they’re quicker on the draw with their ad spend or have a far larger marketing budget than you, it might be devastating for your company.


In Silicon Valley, a startup’s life is only as good as its founders and marketing team make it. A marketing team has just two options for surviving and thriving in the new California Gold Rush known as Silicon Valley.

Either make a neon cow or make a black cow out of the purple cow. Whatever path you select, be prepared to lay your claim on it.

When you do, you’ll locate the gold nuggets that everyone else is looking for.

Thanks to DeJuan Wright at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.