Thursday, December 29, 2011

Four essential marketing goals for 2012 – inspired by Cirque du Soleil

I saw Quidam, my first-ever Cirque du Soleil production last night (I don’t get out much) and I was mesmerized, thoroughly entertained and very much inspired. It was clearly one of the most creative spectacles I’ve witnessed. Even though being there had nothing to do with business (it was my wife’s birthday present), my mind was flooded with the ways in which Quidam offers advice to all of us involved in marketing. So here’s my Cirque du Soleil prescription for 2012.

Be totally, completely, unquestionably unique
Cirque du Soleil is not only different than any other circus. Its different than any other live entertainment – with its own  character and ambience. And it was memorable. If I heard a snippet of the music or saw the flash of an image from the show, I’d recognize it in a heartbeat.

To survive and thrive, the brands we market, create or develop are going to have to be unique. OK, so you’ve heard that so many times that you’re about to close this tab, but think about it – and be honest. Odds are we’re not really distinguishing ourselves from the competition. We’re just part of the pack taking our fair share. To truly stand out, you’re going to have to dig deep – do some research (customers, supporters, employees, the public), soul searching, innovating and come up with a premise and a persona for your brand that is like no other.

Take chances but be prepared for uncertainty
The clowns in Cirque use people from the audience as an integral part of their performance. It’s an incredible risk. What if the chosen people do something totally unpredictable? It’s clear that the clowns are prepared for just about anything and are skilled at manipulating the “performers” while playing the audience.

In the coming year, charge into uncharted territory. Do something you’ve never done before or better yet, something your competitors have never done before. Create that campaign that will have people saying, “I can’t believe they did that – and I love it.” But, be sure you know the risks involved and have a plan (communications, crisis management, back-up campaign) in place in case it doesn’t work.

Sweat the small stuff – it makes a huge difference
While the acrobats and jugglers in Quidam deliver their performance there are all kinds of other things going on - dancers twirling, men in white spinning. people on stage having conversations. You might think these things would be distracting but they’re not. The balancing acts would be no less breathtaking without them but they are little flourishes that just add to the overall ambience – and make it unique.

It’s the small stuff – the attention to design detail, the unexpected thank you, the token of appreciation, the personalized letter – all the things you didn’t have to do but chose to do  - that will get and keep the attention of your customers and supporters.

Create ooohs and aaahs - don’t settle for second best
The unbelievable skill of Cirque’s performers and the perfection in all aspects of the production were key to the quality of the presentation. And yes, there were lost of oohs, aaahs and wows.

There is no substitute for excellence. We have to set our standards high – higher than they ever have been. The people we are marketing to are increasingly sophisticated and discerning. Whether on a conscious or innate level, audiences know the difference between good enough and outstanding. More importantly, they will demonstrate that knowledge in their purchasing or giving decisions. To achieve results  - which is the goal of all marketing - it’s going to take copy, campaigns, initiatives and tactics that create oohs and aaahs.

That’s my take on Cirque du Soleil and marketing in 2012. What’s yours?

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