You might feel like you're doing flashy acrobatics and contortions getting your message out today, but few marketers get the chance to promote actual acrobats, contortionists and countless other performers like Cirque du Soleil.
While you might expect those spectacles to sell themselves, it takes every bit as much marketing talent and hard work to sell out nearly 20 different, unique shows in cities around the world each year as it does to perform them. It means making sure 15 million people understand what's going to be awesome about sometimes nebulous show concepts, and convincing them that these performances are not to be missed.
"Even though there are a million things that make us unique," says Derricks, there are many "marketing challenges that Cirque has in common with most companies. Even though we’re in the business of defying gravity, we’re still a business with familiar market-facing issues."
For example, maintaining the strong central brand while communicating the concepts, differences and unique spectacle of Cirque's different product lines is an ongoing challenge. Different shows with names like "OVO" and "KÀ" must be defined to potential audiences through marketing so that each show develops its own brand following and customers.
"Cirque’s brand is well-known globally and held in high regard, but we have always struggled with finding ways to describe our unique mix of music, acrobatics, dance, humor, etc.," says Derricks. "The most effective tactics are ones that help audiences understand the differences between our shows. For example, ‘O’ is grand and operatic, while ‘KÀ’ is an action-packed martial-arts adventure."
That challenge has spurred Cirque du Soleil to delve deeper into target marketing and segmentation. "We’re moving away from thinking about a single "target audience," and thinking more granularly about building connections between specific audiences and specific elements of our shows," says Derricks. Often these new shows take Cirque's brand beyond the classic acrobatics and into new genres with different kinds of audiences.
"We have two shows — MJ ONE and LOVE — that feature a great deal of choreography," says Derricks. "We’re creating half-day master classes (the first one is March 13 in Las Vegas) for young dancers to provide training AND highlight Cirque’s depth in the dance space. We’re working on similar initiatives in music, gymnastics, theatrical makeup, costume design, etc."
This is branding through niche audience, thought leadership and influencers, all hallmarks of B-to-B marketing today, but applied to a retail live event brand.
What other tricks does Cirque du Soleil use to stay on top across the world? Tune in to Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk on Thursday, March 10, at 10 AM EST to hear and see more from Alma Derricks, with opening remarks from IMA Founder Sinan Kanatsiz.