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  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

2 Marketing Strategies Every Startup in Silicon Valley Must Use to Advance

Updated: Jan 27

Ask any founder in Silicon Valley to use the best adjective to describe the life of a founder in Silicon Valley and the answer they'll give you would probably be tumultuous. That’s because the life of a founder in Silicon Valley is often exciting, confusing, and disorderly…all rolled into one on a daily basis.

For some, that may be too much of an emotional rollercoaster to willingly purchase a ticket to ride on. But for others, that sounds exactly like the life you’d love to lead.

The thing that makes life for not only startup founders, but also executives who for a startup in Silicon Valley so tumultuousis that the stakes are so high. Silicon Valley is the new California Gold Rush. And like the original Gold Rush, there are miners everywhere fighting to find the same gold nuggets that you're mining for. Which makes Silicon Valley an extremely competitive place for startups.

Think about, what other place in the world could give you a better opportunity to become a billionaire in three years based on an idea that you came up with this morning?

However, the only way for a startup in Silicon Valley in a way that'll attract both customers and investors in such a crowded market is to have an exceptional marketing strategy.

Create a Neon Deer

In 2003, author Seth Godin shook up the marketing world with the release of his book Purple Cow. In the book, Godin states, “The key to success is to find a way to stand out -- to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.” But the approach that a startup in Silicon Valley must take to stand out today is so much different than over 20 years ago when the book was released.

That's because every brand in Silicon Valley is trying to be the purple cow.

And while the objective of standing out remains the same, the methods used in order to do so has drastically changed. It is for these reasons startups in Silicon Valley that seek to truly stand out must create a neon deer in order to advance.

A neon deer is a brand that is so bright you couldn't help but to notice it. A brand that stands out even at night when the purple cow can’t be seen in the pasture. While the purple cow is a brand that stands out by being remarkable. A neon deer is a brand that stands out by being distinctive, interpersonal, and agile.

With Silicon Valley being so crowded with startups that are still trying to stand out by being purplebut slow. The neon deer will stand out because its a brand so bright that you cannot help but to notice it because you’ll either see it yourself, or you’ll hear about it from others. That's because a neon deer demands attention from its audience.

The way to create a neon deer is to create a brand that is interpersonal. This means that the brand is constantly reaching out to its target audience wherever they are—especially on social media, and connecting with them on a deeper level than ordinary brands do.

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

Lastly, a neon deer also must be agile by being able to adjust to changes quickly. Put all three of these elements togetherand you have a neon deer.

Paint the Purple Cow Black

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

If a competitor in your brand's category is somehow standing out by being a purple cow, and you don’t want to take the approach of creating a brand that’s a neon deer. The only other option for a startup in Silicon Valley to take in order to survive is to paint its biggest competitor as being a black cow.

This means making your biggest competitor that’s standing out in the marketplace look ordinary (like the rest of the cows in the pasture).

The way to do that is by targeting the biggest benefit that makes your competitor stand out and use it against them for your brand’s benefit. For example, let’s say that you’re the CMO of a startup in Silicon Valley that produces commercial electric vehicles and the biggest competitor in your market is currently standing out by having the longest lasting batteries in the industry.

You could use their biggest strength against them by highlighting in your advertising the fact that while their batteries may last longerthe materials that goes into making your batteries are actually safer for the environment than those of your competitor.

This would work because those who care about the environment (which is most people that purchase electric vehicles) would now think twice about purchasing a vehicle from your competitor.

The caveat to this approach is that your claim must be true and significant enough to your target audience. But if it isyou’ll be able to paint the purple cow black; thus making it appear ordinary by taking away the biggest advantage it had in the market.

Fair warning, by taking this approachyou’ve now challenged your biggest competitor on the frontier to a duel. And if they’re faster on the draw with their ad spend or have a much bigger marketing budget than youjust like in the wild 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 only has two approaches to choose from.

Either create a neon cow, or paint the purple cow black. But whichever option you choose, be ready to stand on it and stake your claim. Once you do, you’ll be able to find those golden nuggets that all of your competitors are searching for.


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