4 Chameleon-Approved Lessons for Marketers

Chameleons, like marketers, are agile creatures — endlessly creative in the ways they adapt instantly to any potential circumstance. You probably know that chameleons can change color, using their special skin cells, to blend in with any surface.

But you might not know that chameleons have prehensile tails that can function like a true extra limb. Or that their eyes can move separately and sometimes track different targets or focus on different objects independently.

These nimble little creatures are also opportunistic predators, who sometimes even eat mice and birds. In other words, they have a lot of other tools in their belts besides the whole color-changing thing they’re most famous for.

As a marketer, you (probably) don’t have a tail or eat rodents, but you might still have some common ground with chameleons. Sharp and adaptable, you’re both creative types who can navigate change with grace and ease. Here are some lessons you can learn from your animal kin and apply to your marketing campaigns.

1. Camouflage Your Advertising

Chameleons have special cells in their skin, called chromatophores, that can expand and contract to change color. These cells enable them to blend in with their surroundings, so they can avoid being detected by predators or prey.

Like chameleons, smart marketers use native advertising, advertorials, influencer partnerships, and other clever tactics to seamlessly flow with other media. For example, a native advertising agency can devise a branded content campaign that fits right in with a website environment.

This branded content integrates so fluidly with other articles that readers may not immediately notice they’re looking at ads. And once they do, they’ve already got their guard down, because they’re seeing this content in a trusted environment.

Chameleon’s color-changing cells can also be used to regulate their body temperatures and to communicate messages to other chameleons. Likewise, native advertisers can adapt the tone or temperature of their ads depending on their surroundings. And of course, both ads and chameleons can use their beautiful colors and visuals to communicate whatever message they desire.

2. Be Agile

Chameleons stay very still when they’re not running from a predator or going after prey. But when they need to, they can run up to an astonishing 21 miles per hour. The trick lies in knowing when to wait and when to act. If you’re always going, going, going, there’s no time to skillfully contemplate your next move.

Marketers should take a cue from chameleons and aim for the same sort of energy conservation and situational awareness. They should know when to pay attention to the market and assume watchful waiting mode before deciding on their next campaign. And they should know when to attack, jumping into action to capitalize on viral trends or react to an event.

One important aspect of chameleons’ agility is that they have prehensile tails and tongues. They can use their tails to grip onto branches, staying balanced and grounded when they need to. From a stationary position, they can use their long, sticky, fast-moving tongues to swiftly lasso their prey.

Marketers can take inspiration from this ability to stay firmly planted in one spot while still acting fast. They can stay close to their clients’ or companies’ core values and mission while experimenting with novel or far-out ideas. Agile marketers — and chameleons — can grasp new opportunities and targets, without ever losing connection to their base.

3. Observe Silently and Have Eyes Everywhere

Chameleons are excellent at staying still and quietly observing their environments. One of the ways they take in information is with their highly unusual eyes. Chameleon’s eyes can move independently from one another, tracking separate targets. They have nearly 360° vision and can stay focused on one object while taking in the rest of their environment.

Like chameleons, skilled marketers know how to pay really close attention. This is especially true when it comes to reading and listening to feedback from consumers. Marketers and chameleons survey the landscape (or send out literal surveys) to learn everything they can about their audiences/environments.

Marketers don’t have special eyes, but they can handle laser focus and big-picture thinking at the same time. They can easily see the patterns behind broader trends, while also looking at more detailed feedback from key audience members.

Besides applying this dual focus to customer feedback, great marketers also use their “independent eyes” to make great organizational decisions. With one eye, they can scan the horizon to see what the competition is up to. On the other, they can examine and analyze data about what techniques might work or have worked in the past.

Dare to Be Different

One more notable fact about chameleons is that there are actually around 200 different species in the family Chamaeleonidae. They hail from all different parts of the world, like Africa, Madagascar, Southern Europe, and certain parts of Asia. Each is different and unique in its own special way.

For example, the veiled chameleon is notable for its unusual head shape and stand-out body colors. The panther chameleon is super colorful, with vibrant shades of blue, green, orange, and red. Jackson’s chameleons have little horns on the front of their heads that make them look like rhinoceroses or triceratops.

All of these chameleons are very different, but each stands out in its own unique way. They all have their own ways of doing things, and their own corners of the marketer, biosphere. And yet, each functions just as it should to do its job effectively.

In the same vein, no two marketing agencies are going to approach a campaign in the same fashion. And no two ads are going to look alike, yet they’re all equipped to do an amazing job. So remember: You may know how to camouflage yourself and your ads to fit in with any environment. But the most natural thing you can do as a marketer is be uniquely you.

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