If marketing is the process of promoting oneself, a service or a product, then we all know marketing is more than just nurture emails, influencers, SEO, and advertisements. Marketing is a highly-nuanced process that goes well beyond what customers or clients believe.
I've always been fascinated with the natural world, and that includes the adaptive tactics, skills, and routines adopted by plants and animals to not only survive but to flourish. Maybe I’m too accustomed to viewing things through a marketing lens, but the evidence absolutely supports the idea that one of nature's most useful survival tactics is, in fact, the use of various “marketing” tactics. At first blush nature’s techniques might not fit into our traditional marketing definitions. However, when we view marketing as a process of promotion, there are many correlations we can make to the natural world.
From the early stages of life, individuals within a species have figured out unique ways to market themselves to others. Whether that’s an animal marketing itself for mating purposes, or even a flower producing unique aromas to attract insects, the correlation to marketing is apparent.
A perfect example would be fruit-bearing trees. The fruit has evolved for specific purposes, and it wasn't just to be chopped up in our morning smoothies. For example, a fruit-bearing plant will produce beautiful, aroma rich fruit that calls to the local animals and insects with one specific goal in mind. Seed dispersal improves the survival rate of their tiny little clones, and through the attraction of the fruit, animals eat the fruit, “drop” the seed, and provide a nice pile of nutrient-rich fertilizer for that new seed to get started.
An Osage Orange, labeled an “evolutionary ghost,” is an American fruit-bearing tree that produces poor-tasting, but rather large and luscious fruit. The mastodons and the mammoths that once ate this fruit disappeared long ago, leaving the tree with no viable method of seed dispersal. Its market has vanished, and so far, it‘s failed to find a replacement. As a result of marketing to an outdated clientele, each year the Osage Orange grows closer to the verge of extinction.
Another example of marketing in nature would be a beautiful flower promoting itself to the local honey bees. These flowers rely on bees and other insects to take it’s pollen to another source for reproduction. A flower can alter its biology over time to better market itself to bees. Whether that’s producing a tantalizing scent or flowering with bright and unique colors, all of this is done to market to their “customers” and build a mutually beneficial partnership.
One of my favorite forms of “marketing” comes from one of the most gorgeous tropical birds, the bird-of-paradise (no, not the flower, the actual bird).
With a sparse population of females, the males are tasked with a unique problem; how to market themselves as the best mate ahead of their competition. This desire to set themselves apart has resulted in one very intimate and elaborate display of courtship. The male birds employ an odd form of “event marketing” by preparing a dance floor for their potential mate. The birds will work hard to remove all clutter, sticks, leaves, etc., to impress their potential mate. However, this is just the beginning. The birds will then proceed with loud calls of varying tones and chirps to attract the female to “attend their event.”
Once the female is in attendance, the male will then transform itself, displaying a highly colorful chest while uttering impressive chirps, all in the hopes of convincing the female bird that it stands apart from the rest. If marketing is the process of promoting oneself, a service or a product, the bird-of-paradise does everything in its power to stand out. Pro-tip: Check out this bizarre ritual here.
Sometimes, the female isn’t impressed, turning down the suitor (and dozens like him), before they find their perfect mate. The lucky male, after repeated attempts, must perfect its presentation to score. If we are willing to wait until midnight, we can see the same thing in any bar here in Atlanta.
My goal here is not to give advice about how you should make your company change colors to attract honeybees. My exploration is merely a fascination about how marketing as a concept and process is not only something that takes form in all shapes and sizes, but that it’s a naturally inherent part of the world around us.
All to say, we might think that the social media posts we’re doing are unique and special, but there’s a bird of paradise somewhere saying: Get on my level.