masked bowerbird

What the humble bowerbird can teach us about marketing

Why is Apple like the bowerbird?

The bowerbird, an inhabitant of Australia and Papua New Guinea is a great marketing metaphor that every business owner would do well to learn from. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if even the late, great Steve Jobs himself had been secretly influenced by this fascinating avian character.

In essence, this little creature has developed a marketing strategy that is as extraordinary as it is helpful to us here in the human world. It has harnessed the power of getting and keeping the attention of the audience it’s seeking. Of course, unlike its human counterparts, its purpose is purely reproductive, but we can certainly learn a thing or two from the way it achieves this objective.

The first thing the male bowerbird does is build itself a bower. This is its stage and is where it will dance to entice the female in. Of course, the design and complexity of the bower depend on the exact species of bowerbird and some are definitely more elaborate than others.

When the bower itself has been constructed it will then be decorated with a variety of bright, colourful objects that range from leaves and feathers to discarded rubbish and pieces of plastic. Even more interesting is the fact that in several of the species the colour of the objects is specifically defined to match the preferences of the female. The satin bowerbird for instance favours blue and anything from plastic pull rings to drinking straws will do.

It’s at this point that the fun begins because research shows that the females are rather choosy. They’ll literally shop for the best bower, often all ending up at the same one with one lucky male getting all the attention. It’s not even the best-looking male that wins out, simply the one that’s made the most effort. One piece of research also showed that some bowerbirds even go on to design specific optical illusions by arranging the objects in their courtship area to create a sense of perspective. This seems to hold the attention of the female for longer, resulting in greater success.

By now, you must be thinking what on earth has all of this got to do with business. It’s really quite simple; attention is everything, especially in the online world. Consumers, whether they are B2B or B2C, have many opportunities to get their needs met by an ever-increasing number of providers. Often they’ll take a trip along more than one metaphorical mall to find their perfect match and every single one of them will have a different set of expectations about what ‘perfect’ means to them.

This means that the more attention a business gathers, the more successful it is likely to be. Of course, it does need to be the right attention and, like the bowerbird analogy shows, the business owner must understand what a browser is looking for and why, because it’s only by meeting this need they can turn them into a paying customer.

So, why is Apple like a bowerbird? You only have to think of the Apple stores, the famous logo, its mighty brand positioning and the iconic use of white as their signature colour to understand the answer to that question.

(Image John Gould, Masked Bowerbird)

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