Expanding the Flock
The Bird Enjoyment and Advantage Koalition’s new myBird campaign aims to breathe new life into the exciting world of bird ownership by increasing awareness of the joys and benefits of having a feathered friend.
To look at the future of bird ownership in America, we have to look at the history. Currently, there are 6.1 million bird-owning households, compared to 5.5 million in the early 1990s. While an increase is great, bird ownership was as high as 6.7 million in the early 2000s. According to data from the American Pet Products Association’s APPA National Pet Owners Survey showing more long-term bird owners, it is suggested that there simply are not as many new bird owners coming into the category.
The Bird Enjoyment and Advantage Koalition (BEAK) has launched a new campaign designed to address this issue by increasing awareness of the joys and benefits of companion birds. Much like birds themselves, the campaign is bright, fun, engaging and educational, and it aims to breathe new life into the exciting world of bird ownership. BEAK is a strong alliance of bird product manufacturers, retailers, associations and caregivers with shared interests, aimed at identifying and addressing issues surrounding declining bird ownership and opportunities for growth.
“BEAK supporters and collaborators are leading the efforts to increase responsible pet bird ownership,” says Brent Weinmann, president of Vitakraft Sunseed and co-chair of BEAK. “They have already conducted effective research to identify potential pet bird owner target audiences. In addition, BEAK is talking with retailers, wholesalers, breeders, avian veterinarians and community bird groups. The responses have been very positive.
“All of the audiences we are working with are engaged and excited about BEAK and the prospects of expanding the pet bird opportunities. There is genuine interest and excitement as BEAK introduces new audiences to birds at consumer shows across the country, excitement when we tell store owners and breeders that leading BEAK companies have formed this group and excitement from the communities of bird lovers everywhere who want to see this campaign become a success.”
The consumer campaign is called myBird, and it launched with an interactive online quiz that takes consumers through a variety of digestible questions to come to a final recommendation of the ‘perfect’ bird type for them. Mention you can’t commit to more than 20 years and you might get matched with a parakeet. Check ‘yes’ to cuddly and loving, and you might get matched with a conure.
The point is to educate on all the various species of birds and all the unique characteristics they have to ultimately help people find the right bird for them. The quiz includes real sounds of birds along the way, so people can get a feel for the various sounds a particular species might make.
“The more we can educate on average lifespan, sound, temperament, care requirements, etc., the better we can help match people with a forever bird,” says Todd Regan, senior vice president of marketing for Kaytee and co-chair of BEAK. “While it’s easy to fall in love at first sight, we want to make sure that people are making responsible, educated choices to ensure birds stay in the homes and minimize relinquishment.”
The online quiz is a great resource that is really taking off. Within two days of publicly launching, the website had more than 2,600 page views, 191 Facebook shares and more than 90 retweets. As a result, more than 1,800 bird matches were given to consumers. Quite impressive.
“We had a mom contact us to tell us about her 12-year-old daughter taking the quiz and immediately becoming obsessed with finding a Lutino cockatiel after she’d matched with it on the quiz,” says Weinmann. “Come to find out, her mom drove four hours to the nearest breeder that carried that species and ended up getting one for her daughter.”
These are the types of results the campaign is creating and that make a real difference. Reaching the younger generations and getting them excited about bird ownership is certainly something the group is interested in.
While the myBird campaign consists of consumer education elements, such as the myRightbird website, exhibition at consumer pet expos, brochures and other marketing material, the BEAK group is working very hard to get more of the industry involved as well. While there’s a solid coalition making significant strides, even more could be accomplished with additional support.
“The entire pet industry benefits from what BEAK is trying to accomplish,” says Cecil Campbell, vice president of sales and marketing for F.M. Brown’s and chair of BEAK’s membership work group. “We’d love the chance to further talk with the veterinary community, large and small retailers, breeders, wholesalers and manufacturers to discuss ways they can get involved in our efforts and the mutually beneficial relationship we can provide. We need the support of the industry to help support the industry.”
There is big opportunity for everyone in growing this category. The average tenure of cockatiel ownership, according to the APPA survey, is 16 years. That’s comparable to dog and cat owners. And other than dogs and arguably cats, birds are the only other species providing communicative interaction to their owners. The better the bond people have with their companion animals, the more likely they are to take proper care of them, spend on them and treat them like a member of the family.
“We feel very strongly that the demand to have a pet bird can and will rise,” says Regan. “These new groups of potential owners are very engaged with the campaign thus far, and we can’t wait for it to fully take flight.”
Contact Steve Hellem, BEAK executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or chat with any BEAK supporters: APPA, Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), World Pet Association (WPA), F.M. Brown’s, Inc., the Higgins Group Corp., Kaytee Products, LaFeber Company, Prevue Pet Products, Vitakraft Sunseed and ZuPreem.