If You Build It, They May Not Come!

Marketing . . . from the birds

Every so often I recall basic business principles I know I should be acting upon. They tend to be great insights I somehow forget use in my work. These flashes of well-hidden brilliance generally pop into my head when I’m thinking about something that has nothing to do with business . . . unfortunately. This time they’re marketing principles. Based on my observations regarding the appropriate placement of bird feeders, I will herein offer these marketing principles for your reading enjoyment (and possible enlightenment—although I doubt that).

The Back Story

I was very excited to see how many birds came by to visit the bird feeders we placed on out deck at home this summer. More than ever before. I got so excited that I headed to Wild Birds Unlimited to get a bird feeder to put on the outside window of my office. This is where the lessons begin.

Absence of marketing analysis.

Lesson 1: Make sure there is a market, and more importantly, that you have access to it.

I put up the bird feeder, filled it with seed and sprinkled some around the window ledge to give notice of the new bird restaurant in town. Two weeks later, I have seen no birds and the food is untouched! I know there are birds in the neighborhood – I’ve seen them. Unfortunately, there are none that seemed to be anywhere close to my bird feeder. The fact I had a great idea, high hopes and a good product was not sufficient to attract my feathered friends.


A better product doesn't guarantee more businessLesson 2: A better product does not necessarily guarantee a better result.

I purchased a fancy bird feeder with three different types of food loaded into it and placed it on a tree in our backyard where I could hear a lot of birds. I was sure they would flock to the luxury eatery where the view was incredible and the food selection beyond compare. For 10 days, no birds showed up.

Lesson 3: You must create a demand for your product. Scarcity may do that for you.

A funny thing happened.  Through minor neglect, the feeders on our deck ran out of food.  A couple of days later, we noticed a few birds starting to dine at the new feeder in our backyard. I guess when the birds got hungry, they moved beyond their sense of entitlement and started searching for food elsewhere.Causing a product shortage is good business

Lesson 4:  Don’t believe everything you hear or read. And be wary of attracting the wrong customers.

Key principle is that some benefits often fail.The other day as I was glancing around our backyard, I noticed a squirrel approaching the new bird feeder. I’d been told that
one of the foods in the feeder was a suet mix which mammals found too hot to eat and would keep them away. Apparently birds aren’t able to taste it so they can eat in peace and comfort. The squirrel must have read about that food because it ate the seeds on top and on bottom of the suet layer, thus avoiding the habanero effect. The squirrel ended up with exclusive use of the bird feeder for a couple of days–thus scaring off the critters we were trying to attract.

Lesson 5:  When repositioning your product, ensure there is a substantial and significant difference.

After seeing the squirrel attack the bird feeder on one particular branch, I moved to another branch. Discovered that the squirrel could easily jump to that one and the repositioning failed to achieve the desired objective.

Lesson 6: Sometimes it helps to make your product appear similar to something your customer is already familiar with.

The regular feeding spot good for marketing something newThe new bird feeder is now comfortably placed out of reach of squirrels, is within a few wingflaps of the current feeders our birds seem to love. It is easier to see from inside the house. Unfortunately our dog stands underneath the feeder and barks at the birds. I’m sure there is another lesson there, but not sure what it is just yet!New business location with dog issues


About David Gouthro

David has over 40 years facilitating high energy, creative and engaging face-to-face meetings that focus on delivering client value in a manner that is focused, flexible and fun. Embracing the challenge of providing the same quality of service in an online world has been heartily embraced and he now enjoys designing and delivering high impact meetings from afar! David can be reached at david@davidgouthro.com or 604.926.6858. And he is far from being Zoomed out in case you want a more visual conversation!


David Gouthro | 08/26/2020 | | 72 Comments


  • David …. Loved your story about the bird feeder. What marvelous insight and a great analogy into marketing our products. The only point you left out was the ‘cost’ of these marketing efforts:
    1. the products you purchased to market (ie manufacturing effort)
    2. the time required to manage, review, change and add to existing product to determine effectiveness. What was the labour cost in your ‘go to market’ strategy and implementation?
    3. did you lose your job as the Director of Marketing for bird feeders? Was you boss impressed with your efforts? Were you given the latitude to fail? Would you do this again?
    LOL. Still chuckling over the imagery of you moving the bird feeder around and watching from the window.

    • All good points, Gary! You have taken my cheeky post into the realm of real relevance!!

  • Certainly an aspect of bird feeders and I suspect marketing that I know nothing about, is that it takes time.
    Advertising over a period of time; that’s the risking part of marketing, I suspect. But with bird feeders just be patient. It takes times for birds to relocate from their usual feed stations to yours. And, you must provide a quality product. Hmmm, maybe that has something to do with marketing. It you’re trying to push crap, birds err, customers know that and avoid what you’ve got to offer.
    And you can’t provide a single product as different species of birds are attracted to different products. So if you only sell buy plushy red sofas, you’re only going to get customers that want red ones and not blue , green or brown ones.
    So a variety of seeds is the answer; even a suet block!

    • The folks at Wild Birds Unlimited offered some good advice and the food seems to be good quality. I will leave the bird feeder on my office window. Perhaps when winter sets in it will be easier to see and they might be happy for a good meal!

  • I recommend you get a cat; then your dog willl chase the cat, and not bark at the birds.
    Oh dear, maybe the cat will eat the birds… another factor important for placement!
    Thanks for the blog post on bird feeders!

  • It’s a good piece, David, and I hope you will continue. One idea: if you want to get together occasionally on Zoom and brainstorm ideas with me, I’m very much up for it. Maybe bouncing around a variety of concepts will give you more impetus.

    • That would be great, Lou! What’s your time like over the next 18 months? I’m sure we can squeeze something in!

  • Who doesn’t love reading a good story? Bird Feeder Marketing 101 was the start to my day, thanks for the thought-provoking analogy.

    Together with your pooch you are definitely barking up the right tree!

    • Thanks, Heather! It’s been fun watching Maggie (approximately 6″ high) trying to join the birds at one of the feeders!

  • Being an aficionado of marketing readings, I loved your post.
    Some other potential topics:
    * market successes and failures in the time of pandemic ( what’s hot, what’s not)
    * the restorative power of solitude and nature during time of pandemic
    * planning ( for individuals, groups, organizations) during this time of extreme uncertainty.


    • Thanks, Darlene–I’ll put those into the idea hopper. Perhaps we can have an interview on one of your favourite topics to generate some cool content. Please let me know if you’re up for that!

  • I enjoyed your quest for the ideal bird feeder. You chose the food, the housing but perhaps needed more work on the location. Location, Location, Location for businesses and real estate is important. If you are bold enough to think that your bird feeder is a destination feeder, then it can be situated anywhere, The proof is that the placement brought in the wrong crowd. My two cents.Ed

    • True wisdom, Ed! I neglected to recall my experience as a real estate agent in Toronto over 4 decades ago. Great to “hear” your voice!

  • Lesson1-You forgot about safety -birds have a tendency to fly into windows so the placement was incorrect in the first place (poor planning and product placement) just so you could enjoy your view- selfish bugger
    Lesson 2-You just had to purchase the Cadillac of feeders in an arrempt to prove a point and therefore wasted resources
    Lesson 3- blind bloody luck -a plan should always build luck into it- one for you
    Lesson 4-sold a bill of goods and lack of forethought about attracting squirrels when everyone other than you knows squirrels consider it a challenge to outwit a mortal human(again poor planning and research)
    Lesson 5-4 repeated- duh squirrels live in trees
    Lesson 6-totally irrelevant – if you put the cadiiac as was there in the first place you would have given your customers options maximizing geography and shelf space-convenience, convenience, convenience!
    Lesson 7 the dog- well we will leave that for another day
    Signed the honest curmudgeon

    • While I truly appreciate your thoughtful and curmudgeonly comments, I believe your time might better spent with your new grandchild–get on it, my friend!

  • You killed it, once again. I live well outside the world of marketing yet after reading this piece I feel as if I’ve completed Marketing 101.
    Thanks David. You continue to amaze me.

  • Loved it! Especially the pics which illustrate your points.
    Would love more!

  • Well it seems to me you missed one element in your marketing plan…… those annoying customer surveys. Of course you will need to eliminate any birdbrain answers so that might render the limited responses to being useless.

  • So much fun, and spot on with the marketing analogies, David! A lovely start to my day. Looking forward to more blog posts.

    And, by the way, we were successful with a window mounted feeder in Peterborough. The squirrels couldn’t get to it. The downside we experienced was the seeds that fell below the deck underneath. We were warned they could attract rodents. Ugh!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected!

My Latest Reflections


It is better to have a right destroyed than to abandon it because of fear. ~ Phillip Mann