Is Cirque in a Blue Ocean?

It’s common knowledge among fans that Cirque du Soleil is an innovator. Now that opinion is again being acknowledged in the business press world. In a newly released book, “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant” (Harvard Business School Press), authors W. Chan Kim and Reneé Mauborgne, professors at Insead, the French business school, say the way to do business is to escape existing business boundaries and find areas where you can have a clear competitive advantage – “blue oceans” where there is no other competition.

In their book, in addition to discussing Starbucks and Apple Computer, the duo also cites Cirque du Soleil. In a recent interview with the New York Times William J. Holstein, the duo talked about how Cirque created their unique niche. Here’s an excerpt from the article, printed January 30th.

“Q. You seem to think that Cirque du Soleil successfully escaped existing boundaries. What was its secret?

Kim: Yes, they challenged the conventional way of thinking. The conventional wisdom was that in the traditional circus industry, everybody was competing with each other on the basis of bringing in more exotic animals and more acrobatics. They tried to improve the thrill of the circus. But Cirque du Soleil totally redefined the problem. They wanted more artistic sophistication. They asked, “How can you produce an intellectually sophisticated show?”

Q. Does that mean that Cirque du Soleil started reaching a different audience?

Mauborgne: Yes, they saw that people go to the theater or ballet more than the circus because those venues provide intellectual sophistication. And they decided not to focus only on children,
whom the traditional players were trying to please. Cirque du Soleil targeted non-customers who had refused to go to the circus. They escaped the no-win red ocean.”

[Source: New York Times, Keith Johnson]