I live in a rural area surrounded by a state park on one side and a lush swamp on the other. The place is a haven for wildlife of all kinds. We’ve got deer snacking on the bushes in front of our house and a robust symphony of crickets, bull frogs, and owls each evening at dusk.
During the day, the air is full of the endless chatter and chirping of our feathered friends. From the melodious to the raucous, this entourage never stops with the singing. Though I (an amateur birder since the age of seven) can pick out the calls of red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, grackles, cowbirds, catbirds, chickadees, and titmice; to the average listener it just sounds like a lot of noise – squawking, squabbling, and screeching.
But, two weeks ago, I was woken in the middle of the night by the clear call of a bird that I couldn’t identify. Sounding eerie as it echoed across the dark and still landscape of the neighborhood, the song mesmerized me. I sat at the window, listening to each note as the bird ran through its entire repertoire of songs. I was a captive audience. Nothing else competed for my attention.
The typical business marketplace is like my backyard during the day – full of dozens of different brands singing their songs as loudly and insistently as they can … over and over and over. One song competes against the next and the result is a cacophony that leaves the listener with a headache. There’s no way to filter the noise to get to the message. In addition, if the listener does make the effort to untangle the complex wave of sound, she will inevitably wind up comparing one song to the next, making judgments and picking favorites.
But the bird that sings his song at night stands out against a quiet backdrop. It takes no effort at all to hear each note, and there is no other song competing for the listener’s ear or favor. In the same way, the brand that finds an unexpected space to use as a stage from which to deliver its message will have a more attentive audience and no need to constantly defend its position against loud competitors.
Take, for instance, a service company that markets to small businesses. Let’s say it’s a CPA. The typical advertising spaces for such a business might include the local chamber of commerce, a business directory, and some sponsorship ads in geographically relevant publications (you know, the good will stuff like the high school yearbook, fundraising and booster programs, the Lions Club, etc). In these venues, the CPA is thrown in with a bunch of similar service providers and put in front of an audience that may or may not even be interested in accounting services.
But, what if that same company showed up somewhere unexpected where there wasn’t any competing noise? Maybe a representative from the firm hosts a “Taxes for Dummies” training aimed at the small business. Maybe the company runs a promotion in partnership with the local coffee hangout – offering a free consultation with the purchase of a cup ‘o’ joe. (I don’t know any small biz owner who doesn’t frequent the local coffee hang out.) Maybe the brand sponsors a children’s program, connecting with the entrepreneurial parents who need a little extra childcare assistance to keep their business running smoothly.
Whatever the tactic, the strategy is to give your brand a chance to stand out and be heard by being in an unexpected place where the noise is at a minimum.
What do you think? Is your brand showing up in all the usual places and fighting through the crowd of competitors to catch the attention of your audience? Where could you go to capture more of the limelight without having to share?
This is the first in my “Marketing According to Mother Nature” series. From the birds and the bees to sharks and wildebeests, the natural world is full of metaphors that provide surprisingly relevant marketing insights. Take a walk on the wild side – you never know what might inspire you.