Braden Russom
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How a Street Performer Became a Harvard Case Study

Last week Steve Banis talked a bit about Blue Ocean Strategy. As a quick refresher, Blue Ocean Strategy is a business principle that recommends organizations search for open spaces in markets in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage.

This week, I want to talk about how a little known Canadian street performer became the poster child for Blue Ocean Strategy success.

A Humble Busker

Back in the early 1980s, Guy Laliberte played a mean accordion. To kick it up a notch, sometimes he’d stilt-walk, breathe fire, & juggle.

You know, just your standard street performer fair.

The Circus Business in a Squeeze

At the same time, the circus business was in some pretty rough waters.

Sporting events had become much more popular in the minds of Americans. At the same time, TV & video game options continued to multiply.  The result? Both out-of-home and in-home entertainment pretty much covered.

To complicate things further, animal rights activists were rocking the boat.
Upset with the treatment of animals in circuses, they were spinning off PR nightmares for the industry and creating a crisis of conscience in the minds of the audience.

On top of those factors, performers had gained quite a bit of power and were largely setting their own terms.

In the 1980′s, trying to get into the circus business was close to nuts.

The Busker Busts Through

Guy Laliberte wasn’t interested in getting into the circus business.

He was interested in reinventing the circus business.

Instead of approaching the traditional circus customer (children) with a traditional circus show (lion tamers and human cannonballs), he sailed into uncontested space and grabbed a new audience (upper class show-goers) with a new experience (a circus-influenced theater event).

He noticed a bit of Blue Ocean in the marketplace, and brought a more cost-effective, less controversial show to a less price-sensitive, more educated audience.

The Results?

Here’s a little taste of Laliberte’s creation, a little thing called Cirque du Soleil.

You might be interested to know that the revenues numbers it garnered in 20 years took Ringling Brothers over a century to attain.

Pretty impressive stuff.

What’s Next

As Steve mentioned, we’ll be talking about Blue Ocean Strategies a lot over the coming weeks.

If this strikes a chord with you, we’d love to chat and see if we can help you find a Blue Ocean in your marketplace.

You can get a hold of me at [email protected], or call us at 465-0659 if you want to talk further.

Just ask for one of our oceanographers. ;-)