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Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Spiegelworld Empire – reimagining the world of circus


With the Sydney Festival celebrations taking over the city, numerous world-class acts steal audiences’ imagination and defy the world as we know. Reinventing the traditions of circus, cabaret, variety and burlesque for the 21st century audience, Spiegelworld has brought its new show, Empire, from New York to Sydney for this month’s festival. Following a sell-out in Broadway, the mind-altering show takes audiences through the underworld of kinky contortionists, rich impresarios and daredevils inside an authentic Belgian spiegeltent. The acts are played out almost on the laps of the audience as performers are squeezed on a 9-foot diameter stage adding to the intimate atmosphere nowhere to be found in large mainstream shows.

The Empire has been described as the early days Cirque du Soleil, when the shows had no storyline and were purely centered on emerging raw talent. Back in October, when the Cirque du Soleil was in town, we wrote a blog about the challenges in envisioning the Cirque du Soleil strategy for the next 10 years, a case study from our marketing strategy course. In the same way, I now invite you to envisage how a show like the Empire can grow without losing its grungy, cheeky and fresh appeal.

When looking into the future, niche arts companies face the challenge of potentially losing their “cool” in an attempt to attract larger audiences. This would in turn open space for new upcoming acts to fill the demand for underground and independent art performances. The Empire show is definitely not for kids and family. How much would they have to trade-off to capture that part of the market? Another alternative for growth would be to continue to focus on the same target audience and expand their range. Bringing new types of acts that cross the circus border seems like a more feasible option. In fact, by hesitating to use the circus designation and calling themselves a variety show, or simply “spiegelworld”, they seem to be heading in that direction.

This challenge is faced my many SMEs which have a niche audience and are strategising future growth. The danger in adapting their value proposition in order to appeal to a wider audience and grow is that they will lose their sustainable advantage. Do you stick to your niche audience and present them with new offerings, increasing your range? Do you look for similar niche audiences around the world? Do you modify your value proposition to appeal to more segments and have a more mainstream offer?

With all of these questions in mind, how can Spiegelworld successfully grown in the next 10 years?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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