Bickering aside, marketing professors generally agree that you need your brand to be famous. In marketing terms, the word is ‘salient’: the quality of being particularly noticeable or important.

Certain animal species have developed unique ways to achieve salience. Biomimicry takes inspiration from nature and applies 3.8 billion years of evolution to figure out a problem. Think of the aerodynamic shape of train engines modelled on a birds’ beak. The foundation of Velcro was laid down by ingenious plants. Natural selection has made failures into fossils and living organisms into survivors.

“Differentiation is as dead as disco.”
– Olaf van Gerwen

Then there are the Birds-of-paradise. After billions of years of evolution, they have developed looks and behaviours that are unique in the animal world. The mating rituals of the hysterical males look like circus clowns on acid. They dance like ballerinas after sweeping their stage clean. They chant like Mariah Carey in her golden days. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them know the entire repertoire of the Wu Tang Clan by heart to get some booty.

To be efficient with energy is at the root of evolution. Energy is mostly delivered by nutrients so those will always be wanted by organisms, and thus, scarce. Now, performing intense dance moves, flapping about like a deranged ballet dancer with changing eye colours surely consumes lots of energy. One would say it is a pretty inefficient way to impress a feathered female – why not stick to a pretty whistle? These outrageous rituals don’t make the birds more fertile or genetically advantaged. Elton John-like tail feathers are no proof of being a better provider or a more potent lover. They can even make for easier prey. So WTF?

Are humans any different? The average Kardashian doesn’t date the garbage man. An artist with maladjusted behaviour is more… remarkable. Noticeable. Salient. The term salience circulates throughout the marketing community as one of the most prominent metrics for a brand’s success. Salience is not disappearing in a sea of sameness, it’s about zigging when others zag, as John Hegarty elegantly put it. 

What can we learn from our feathered friends? How do they become the most sought after birdie?

Speak to the whole audience
Pretty much anywhere in nature, the females have options. Tons of options. A male’s ability to attract an audience is key – let’s get them to listen first right? But never get snooty. Much like in marketing, you better reach the whole audience of possible candidates in order to have a shot at any success.

Escape category codes
The loudest, craziest and most outspoken bird gets the prom queen.

Create and use distinctive assets
Transform into the shape of a heating iron. Make your eyes go popping yellow. Extend a feather collar or move like Michael. Whatever you do, be loud, different and consistent. Meaningfulness doesn’t matter much, just don’t be another loser following the latest TikTok trend. 

Long and short. And long. And short
Rococo-ish chest ornaments, kaleidoscopic plumes and fancy footwork make no rational sense. It’s like the Gucci pattern expressing luxury: repetitive patterns do not intrinsically say anything about price. They have grown to be perceived as such after long time use. It takes time to build something memorable. But never, ever forget to boast it when the heat is on.

Grow the category together
Male Birds-of-paradise often gather in groups for a display. They dance, sing and yodel together like there’s no tomorrow hoping to attract a female. They recognise that there’s power in numbers and cooperation. A bit like brands working together to further a category. This happens sometimes in innovation categories: we see plant-based meats cooperate and try to grow together, combatting a common enemy.

See where I’m going with this?

As a bird, you can’t just Romeo your way into the nest. Birds don’t rely on functional benefits (food gathering skills? A Skillshare course in nesting architecture?) or RTBs (a healthy gene set?). You only have a small window of opportunity. In that window, you will not have enough time to convince anyone that you’re smarter, prettier, stronger or healthier than the next guy. You’ll have to show, don’t tell.

Differentiation is as dead as disco. We live in the age of salience. You can trust it – it’s been around for about 3.8 billion years.

Cover image source: lukjonis