Why peacocks are marketing gurus in disguise

Groupon's European COO explains why peacocks are nature's way of stretching limited marketing resources. Get ready to shake your tail feathers...

by Dr. Remo Gerber
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Branding, advertising and marketing are crucial to the modern business and a recent experiment has revealed that no creature advertises itself better than the peacock. Scientists recently completed a study into how peacocks use their looks to attract a pea-mate. As sole operators in a hostile (ie. tiger-inhabited) environment, peacocks must make the most of their limited resources - in the same way small businesses wishing to increase their marketing potential on a limited outlay have to.
Increase your reach
Peahens are not actually interested in the height of a peacock’s tail, only its width – but height is still important, as it enables the peacock to still be visible among the dense undergrowth in the Himalayan foothills. When trying to stand out among the competition it’s important to target a larger audience in order to get your voice or message heard.

A great example of this came from Burberry at London’s 2012 fashion week. The fashion house gave its followers a first look at its new collection by live Tweeting snaps of its models before they hit the catwalk to be seen by the industry’s key players – a big hit with fashion followers and a first for the industry. The principle behind this is relatively inexpensive as the company used a free platform to give their core followers something exclusively, which can be replicated by a business of any size.
Keep your proposition fresh
Peahens live in a hostile environment and as a result they can’t give a peacock their undivided attention. Today’s consumers are both cynical and canny, and much like the peahen will not give a brand their sustained attention and loyalty if they receive a better offer with a competitor.

Even regular, satisfied customers can be easily tempted by a better deal elsewhere. They don’t allow their attention to be occupied by one provider at the exclusion of all others - so a key objective for marketing is to make your offering appear fresh to renew the appeal of your service or product.

For example, a hotel-owner already offering a restaurant and accommodation deal should also look at combining this with other services, such as spa experiences, to offer customers something new.
Highlight the best bits of your offering
Peahens are particularly attracted to the ‘eye’ markings on a peacock’s tail – a plain tail would, presumably, have no success at all.

In marketing it’s all about promoting your unique selling points. After all, if you are doing something really well or different, consumers will want to find out more and will be more drawn to your brand.

Marks & Spencer is an example of a brand that has really honed and promoted its quality food range. This is its unique selling point which it attracts its loyal base of customers and keeps them coming back. Any size of business can focus on its USP; it just needs to have them clearly defined.
Make sure your substance matches your style
The researchers who designed the study were surprised to find that once a peahen has begun to appraise a potential mate, it only really pays attention to what is below head level. Even for a peacock, substance is more important than style.

In business, nothing loses consumer trust faster than misleading marketing. If you’re a business selling more affordable products, you can’t also claim that they are the highest quality - make sure you’re able to back-up your claims.
Don’t overreach
The longer a peacock can grow his tail, the more attractive he is, but there is a reason that they don’t get any bigger than they do: a longer tail would impede its ability to escape predators. The peacock can’t afford to make too big an investment in advertising itself.

As a business, don’t allow investment of time and money in marketing activity to have a negative impact on the effectiveness of your core business operations. You have to be realistic about what you can achieve – don’t throw all of your resources into marketing activity, but plan campaigns thoroughly so they run as smoothly and effectively as possible.
- Dr. Remo Gerber is the chief operating officer of Groupon Northern Europe

- Image credit: Flickr/Ozgurmulazimoglu

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