A onetime accordion player, stilt-walker and fire-eater, Guy Laliberte is now CEO of one of Canada’s largest cultural exports, Cirque du Soleil. Created in 1984 by a group of street performers, Cirque’s productions have been seen by almost 40 million people in 90 cities around the world. In less than 20 years Cirque du Soleil achieved a revenue level that took Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus – the global champion of the circus industry – more than one hundred years to attain.
Despite a long-term decline in the circus industry, Cirque du Soleil profitably increased revenue twenty-two-fold over the last 10 years by reinventing the circus. Cirque differentiated itself from the traditional circus in all business aspects. The company created a whole new market within the entertainment industry. Rather than providing a product for which demand already existed, it used innovation and creativity to create demand for a new service.
Amongst other things the founders eliminated the high costs associated with the three rings of the traditional circus, presented the audience within a more sophisticated theatrical narrative, and removed the reliance on costly animals further eliminating complaints and removing one of the barriers to some people attending. By combining the most valued elements of the theatre and the circus, and eliminating the negatives of both, the founders of Cirque Du Soleil were able to create a superior alternative; an alternative which neither circus nor theatre could directly contend with.
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Source: Extracts from the book Blue Ocean Strategy. (c) Kim & Mauborgne, 2015. Boston. Harvard Business School Publishing