Sunday, April 20, 2008

Parrot Training Marketing Secrets Revealed

Today I must admit, I find myself very saddened by some of the things I am seeing on the internet. My colleague Sid Price expressed the same concerns in his recent blog. There is a current trend in email marketing that while apparently not illegal sure seems to border on the unethical side.

I found a site that featured a super cool you tube video clip on a web page of a talking parrot. Under the video the people who own the site listed all the things the bird could do, which are really very, very impressive. However below that were instructions for the reader to buy their training product if you want your bird to learn to do the things showed in the video. Well, I am cool with people selling their product. There are plenty of us with something to offer.

But one thing was a little difficult for me to overlook. The video clip is one of a colleague of mine who works at a zoo. The bird she was training belongs to the zoo. So I asked my colleague…..did you know you and the zoo’s bird were being used to sell this person’s product? I wasn’t surprised to hear she had no idea. Like me it sure rubbed her the wrong way….. and the news was sent to the zoo director. Here is a fabulous very experienced trainer and a bird that has been doing shows for somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 years or more for a very prominent zoo being used without their consent to sell someone else’s product. Bummer. And in this trainer’s opinion…unethical.

I admit I too share videos of other trainers, but as someone who wants my copyrights respected, I am painstakingly careful to make sure those who have generously shared video with me are credited each and every time I present their videos. Those of you who have been to my parrot behavior and training workshops can attest to that.

Of course more emails featuring zoo professionals unwittingly being used to sell someone else’s product followed.

All this makes me wonder …if this training system is so wonderful, why doesn’t it feature birds trained by the seller or clients of the seller? Are these self proclaimed experts not really what they claim to be? If the product is so wonderful I would think providing plenty of examples of the real results of people using the product would be the ideal way to sell the item.

To add insult to injury, on the very same day I read a very old article from Winged Wisdom’s online magazine on reading bird body language. Shortly after that I received a marketing email sharing the “secrets of bird training” that also featured the subject of body language. “I’m game, I’ll read that one.” I thought. Yowza. The email was almost word for word the 10 year old article by the author I had just read. Of course that person could have given permission for the use of her article, but sadly it was presented as new, original teachings of the person selling again secrets to bird training. Again in my opinion very misleading to the public. If someone is professing to be an expert, but in fact is using other’s people writings (with permission or not) and putting them as his or her own ideas it is misrepresentation. It leads me to ask just what are the seller’s credentials if any? I am guessing they are lacking, if they indeed are resorting to using and/or buying other people’s material. Unfortunately how can the general public know the difference?

This misrepresentation of one’s knowledge and experience is easily sucked up by those naïve to the bird training world. And no doubt has been successful for those sellers who use those methods, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. A behavior that is repeated has been reinforced. So indeed money talks in this case.

So what to do, what to do? And is there anything to do? In my opinion there is. My hope is that there are enough of us out there willing to take a bit of stand against these practices. For one if something appears to be lifted, contact the person whose rights were possibly violated. They have the right to know and decide what they would like to do. Secondly I would suggest steering prospective learners in the direction of teachers you trust. It certainly does not need to be me, although I do appreciate the support. But there are a number of really, good, honest, ethical experienced, professional trainers out there and I promote them in Good Bird Magazine and on my website. Use them. Support them. Refer people to them. Buy their products.

And if asked for your opinion of these marketing practices, I hope you will share this story as well as your own experience. I personally don’t feel comfortable standing by and watching good people and colleagues misrepresented in this manner. I hope you feel the same.


Anonymous said...

I will certainly tell a friend about this ka-ka.

These folks are the Cesar Milan of the bird world. Great talkers, smooooth and suave...scary.

Anonymous said...

I'm hearing about this more and more. It is a hideous thing to do and I'm tempted to buy some of this crap to find out what it is that they are supposedly "teaching," but I just don't want to add to their bank account in order to find out. It's upsetting and I shudder at the thought of anyone hijacking an entire written piece or video belonging to someone else in order to sell some garbage that is worthless.
Hate to hear this Barbara, but thanks for the information,