Blue Ocean Strategy: Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Responding to Cirque du Soleil

Brands are tricky things.  And Blue Ocean Strategy is about not going head to head with your competitors but rather about finding a blue ocean that creates NEW demand.  New territory.  It would be like dragging Edward Bernays along on the Lewis & Clark expedition and watching the fireworks fly.

Blueoceanstrategy My first point is the book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne is a great book for those of us navigating the branding oceans with a new and different product.  It IS tempting to go with the “me to” concept particularly when you consider search engine marketing and keyword counts which by definition ONLY highlight existing market categories.  So if it takes another brand manager X amount of self control to position his product in a new category, I truly believe it takes someone familiar with SEO X + 9999999 to achieve the same position, education and facts not withstanding.

Strategycanvasofcirquedusoleil In the book Blue Ocean Strategy they cover numerous relevant business examples (it is a Harvard Press book after all).  One of the examples that may be difficult to apply to our business (don’t worry – they cover other awesome examples that ARE easy to relate) is the case of Cirque de Soleil.  Blue Ocean Strategy advocates creating strategy maps as seen at right.

The idea is to determine what you can eliminate, raise, reduce or create.  So circuses fight over star performers (did you even realize there was such a thing as a star clown?  I find that laughable. (too easy, sorry….)).  So Cirque de Soleil eliminated star performers.  Animals are expensive to care for, travel poorly, require trainers and Peta is stripping in protest anyway – so why not ELIMINATE the animals (high cost / low return = capitalism??)

Finally we see a response from PT Barnum.  DeathdefyingbrandconversionOK, not that “See the Egress” crap again, rather a “secret” new show eliminating the three rings and introducing a theme. But I’ll bet buckets of chicken (sorry Pam) to doughnuts (sorry HFPD) that they are not eliminating animals or celebrity performers.  So they have higher choreographical costs, perhaps more creativity, but no significant cost reduction in performers or animals care.  Will they at least return to performing in tents?

All kidding aside (image of goat here), the point of blue sky strategy the four actions framework:

  1. Reduce – which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard?
  2. Eliminate – which factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminiated?
  3. Raise – which factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
  4. Create – which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

I am glad to see Barnum and Bailey thinking.  I think they need to explore their strategy a bit more and not rush to create a win/lose battle with cirque, rather they need to find some blue ocean.