Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cirque du Cafe

So I'm thinking about the difference between Cirque du Soleil and Starbucks. I went, along with my wife, son and dad, to see the Cirque show Saltimbanco last weekend. As always, it was great. Not their best show (which is Corteo, imho... of the four we've seen), but certainly great.

At one point, during the show, I thought to myself, "Gosh, I like this. And I really hate the regular Ringling Bros. style circus." And I began to count off the reasons in my head:

  • No creepy animal acts

  • No creepy clowns (that aren't creepy to be funny or artistic)

  • No creepy ringleader (saa)

  • No creepy fire gags

  • Better music (though sometimes creepy, but in a good way)

  • Drama as spectacle rather than spectacle as drama

  • Better use of tension

  • Irony (there is nothing as woefully un-ironic as a classic circus)

  • A coherent theme (what is the theme of a classic circus? was there ever one?)

  • Actual choreography

  • Humor (funny stuff that's really funny, rather than creepy clown humor)

And of course, amazing acts of physical prowess, rather than just somebody standing on an elephant.

Cirque is, of course, a roaring success and everybody (almost) loves them and I say (literally and figuratively), "Bravo!" It's good stuff. They took a tired, creepy (are you sensing a theme in my anti-circus rant?), ailing genre and gave it back to the world as something totally unexpected and fantastic.

Is Cirque, though, the "Starbucks of Circuses?" Have they taken an old, un-sexy beverage and turned it into an "experience brand?" I mean... even the old style circus was an experience, wasn't it?

I'm not sure. The old circus was maybe an experience in the generic; ie, "I went to the circus." Or maybe even the dreaded, "a." As in, "I went to a circus." It doesn't matter which one. They're all "small 'c' circuses." Cirque du Soleil is entirely it's own thing. You can't see one of their shows and not know it. You wouldn't ever say, "I went to the circus last weekend" about going to a Cirque show. You say, "I saw cirque last weekend." It's clearly a brand.

Is Starbucks the same thing, kinda? I mean... it's coffee, right? But what does it have that the "old coffee" didn't? It's an experience, yes. It's the store and the music and the baristas and the flavors and the feeling of treating yourself to something almost naughtily grande (or venti).

Which makes me wonder to my marketing self... what other old, tired products, services, entertainments, experiences, etc. are waiting to be Starbucked or Cirqueified? What does it take to look at [whatever] and think, "I can take this thing that people sortta don't give a rat's ass about anymore, and turn it into..."


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