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7 Things You Should Know About…

Cirque du Soleil Scenario Margaret is a 30-year old working mother who juggles her fast-paced job as an executive at an advertising firm with taking care of her 10-year old son and 8 year-old daughter. When she does manage to find the time for leisure, she puts her children’s entertainment before her own, often taking them to zoos, jungle gyms, and circuses. But when it comes to her own hobbies, Margaret is a sophisticated intellectual, with heightened interests in ballet, opera, theater, and the arts. Thus, she craves a form of entertainment that addresses both her and her children’s desires. One of her children’s favorite past times is going to the circus, and so Margaret takes them to local, three-ringed ones or buys tickets for The Ringling Brothers’ shows when they are visiting her town. The centerpieces for such traditional circuses are the clowns and animals - in other words, the focus is on slapstick fun and cheap thrills that children will find more entertaining than adults. Margaret, on the other hand, values different qualities in her entertainment: a well-developed storyline, theatrical artistry, impressive set and costume design, state-of-the-art seating, etc. - in short, a complete, customer-focused event that allows patrons to undergo a full-on experience of the senses. When she learns that Cirque du Soleil’s traveling show Ovo will be in town, Margaret decides to buy tickets for herself and her kids. Familiar with Cirque du Soleil’s brand and its history of “circus reinvention”1, she is at first hesitant to

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What is it? Cirque du Soleil describes itself as “a major Quebec-based organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment.”3 Its business model, in essence, is based on merging circus with theater, with the target audience belonging to the adult age group (although many of its shows are also perfect for the whole family). It has both touring and resident shows (in Las Vegas and Orlando). Sans animals and other features of traditional three-ringed circuses, Cirque du Soleil’s shows are character-driven, employ the latest advancements in stage and prop technology, and star the best talent in contortionism, gymnastics, etc.

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Who’s doing it? Since its origins in the 1980s as The High Heels Club founded by street performer Giles Ste-Croix4, the company has enjoyed great success in markets all over the world, with earlier estimates for 2013 predicting nearly 15 million audience members. Moreover, as an example of “blue ocean”5 strategy, Cirque du Soleil has established itself as the leader in a previously undefined industry - hence, its sustained competitive advantage and little competition. However, traditional circuses - such as The Ringling Brothers have also made moves to address the adult market; other rivals include “Slava’s Snowshow”, Steve Synn’s “Le Reve”, and shows by The Canadian Cirque Eloize. The company, as its focus has always been about prioritizing the brand over the product, does not operate in a


Cirque du Soleil take her children to one of its performances, fearing that some material would be too suggestive or inappropriate for them. She visits the company’s Help page and finds that “…Ovo is meant to entertain the whole family … moments of loud noises and darkness used during the show may frighten some children.”2 But Margaret knows that this wouldn’t be an issue for her kids, and so that Saturday, the three of them attend Ovo. To Margaret, the show’s plot, “overflowing with contrasts”, was a magical but well-crafted commentary on the circle of life. To her children, who marveled more at the colorful costumes, the antics of the insectplaying actors, and the gravity-defying performances than at the story’s deeper meanings, the show was a success when it came to delighting their imaginations. Margaret now sees Cirque du Soleil as her go-to source of entertainment. Its relatively higher ticket prices aren’t a concern for her - in fact, she realizes that she’s actually saving money by opting for a single show which accommodates for both her and her children’s interests, rather than having to spend money separately for adult and children forms of entertainment. Moreover, Cirque’s unconventional and highly thrilling shows satisfy all family members’ entertainment cravings for a much longer time; the result is an overall drop in Margaret’s annual expenditure on leisure activities.

vacuum; it has built a substantial relationship with Las Vegas, for instance, and has other partnerships in order to support its diverse retail activities, record label pursuits, and cruise line performances. Other primary stakeholders are the performers themselves as well as the HR employees necessary for acquiring and retaining the best talent. It is of little wonder, then, that Cirque du Soleil’s innovative model requires the successful and regular cultivation of a community culture within its large organization.

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How Does It Work? Cirque du Soleil operates innovatively in many areas. However, perhaps its highest levels of innovativeness stem from (a) its origins (its “reinvention” of the circus); (b) its approach to creating a show; and (c) the unique role of its human resource department. As the first of these three categories has already been thoroughly described in previous sections, we now turn to an investigation of the last two. Show Development Rather than following Broadway’s approach to show production, in which the director commands activities and a cast, storyline, musical score, etc. are first set well before the night of the performance, Cirque du Soleil treats each show as a prototype which evolves continuously as all stakeholders performers, management, designers, etc. - provide their input and co-create until the performance reaches [close-to] perfection.6 The Importance of HR The company’s HR department’s responsibilities are not just limited to talent acquisition and retention. They also are an invaluable asset in show


Cirque du Soleil development: from accommodating performers, treating injuries, overseeing training camps, encouraging artistic spontaneity, to scouting for talent at the Olympics7, Cirque du Soleil’s success has always relied heavily on its human resource staff.

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Why is it important? Especially when it comes to welleducated, working adults (who are the primary consumers who’d be (a) interested in shows which marry circus and theater , and (b) able to afford Cirque du Soleil’s ticket prices), finding the right form of entertainment is a challenge. Unlike children, who find their thrills satisfied more easily by “empty” forms of entertainment, adults value excitement, complete sensual submersion, and intellectual probing in their sources of entertainment. Thus, by utilizing what is already in existence that is, the circus and the theater Cirque du Soleil has redefined the entertainment industry in an otherwise saturated market And as adult consumers are already primed to use experience-sharing community platforms and the Internet, the company’s “Review” section for each of its shows allows interested customers to find the right show - family-oriented vs. adult-only - for their rare leisure opportunity.

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What are the downsides? Cirque du Soleil has faced several lawsuits when it comes to performer safety and health concerns. For example, back in 2013, an aerialist fell to her death during an especially dangerous act8, causing critics to voice their disapproval of the company prioritizing showing performers as superhuman before acknowledging

their physical limitations even more loudly. Another common criticism is that Cirque du Soleil, in its pursuit of monopolizing the circus-theater industry, has become “too big” to support its original goal of upholding a strong community culture within its organization, resulting in a collapse of its collaborative strategy of co-creation. For instance, its dabbling in film (though unsuccessful) and video games may have diluted its overall brand image, but the company continues to venture into other sources of revenue.9 Finally, constant innovation is expensive, and with each of its shows costing around $25 million to produce10, Cirque du Soleil may continue to put more important considerations - such as employee compensation and protection - on the backburner.

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Where is it going? In my opinion, as Cirque du Soleil has built its business model upon continuous innovation, the company will always be introducing new and unconventional forms of entertainment. Of course, imitators will always be active in the market space as well, especially when we consider that substantial time has elapsed since Cirque’s establishment. In the future, the company will also have to face the challenge of addressing trends in ‘at-home’ forms of leisure activities - in short, adult consumers are favoring satisfying their entertainment desires via tech-based products, such as Netflix, Wii, and so on as they save money and are more convenient. Perhaps Cirque can continue along its strategizing history of adopting to (rather than fighting) consumer behavior changes; it could, for instance, introduce a Netflix channel which features its best performances and behind-the-scenes documentaries.


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Cirque du Soleil

What are the implications of broad diffusion and adoption of this innovation? Certainly, if we see more adult consumers turning to Cirque du Soleil as their source of entertainment, we may also witness the demise of other entertainment forms, such as the ballet and opera, especially if the latter two are more expensive and do not offer the high levels of unconventionality and high-tech-infused performance magic which Cirque du Soleil does. Cirque du Soleil, in my opinion, has great potential to usurp the more antiquated types of adult entertainment because its shows inherently require and deliver innovation, two qualities which, in today’s market, are invaluable assets to any firm as they allow it to communicate and reach target consumers (most of whom are also “innovatively-minded).

Anne Chen Parsons the New School for Design Innovation: Short Essay Assignment


Bibliography 1. Kim, W. Chan and Renée Mauborgne. “Blue Ocean Strategy.” Harvard Business Review. 2004. Print. http://info.psu.edu.sa/psu/fnm/ymelhem/blue%20ocean%20str.v2.pdf. 2. Ovo: About the Show. Cirque du Soleil. 2014. Web. 20, Feb. 2014. http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/ovo/show/about.aspx. 3. Cirque du Soleil: About Us. Cirque du Soleil. 2014. Web. 20, Feb. 2014. https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/home/about-us/at-a-glance.aspx. 4. Tischler, Linda. “Join the Circus.” Fast Company. 1, July. 2005. Web. 22, Feb. 2014. http://www.fastcompany.com/53331/join-circus. 5. Kim, W. Chan and Renée Mauborgne. “Blue Ocean Strategy.” Harvard Business Review. 2004. Print. http://info.psu.edu.sa/psu/fnm/ymelhem/blue%20ocean%20str.v2.pdf . 6. “Cirque du Soleil: Creating a Culture of Extraordinary Creativity.” Innovation Network. 1999. Web. 20, Feb. 2014. http://innovationnetwork.biz/iu/cirque.html. 7. Tischler, Linda. “Join the Circus.” Fast Company. 1, July. 2005. Web. 22, Feb. 2014. http://www.fastcompany.com/53331/join-circus. 8. Nestruck, Kelly. “Performer’s on-stage death adds to Cirque du Soleil’s troubles.” The Guardian. 8, July. 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/jul/09/on-stage-death-cirque-du-soileil. 9. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-sherman/premature-vultures-circle_b_2528070.html 10. Sherman, Howard. “Premature Vultures Circle Cirque du Soleil.” Huffington Post. 22, Jan. 2013. Web. 24, Feb. 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/is-the-sungoing-down-on-cirque-du-soleil-8458109.html

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7 Things You Should Know About... Cirque du Soleil  

"7 Things You Should Know About... Cirque du Soleil." Date Completed: March 2014. Brief - Innovation - Short Essay Assignment. Based on EDUC...

7 Things You Should Know About... Cirque du Soleil  

"7 Things You Should Know About... Cirque du Soleil." Date Completed: March 2014. Brief - Innovation - Short Essay Assignment. Based on EDUC...

Profile for chena230
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