Red Lanyard - The Greatest Marketers in the World
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The Greatest Marketers in the World

09 Mar The Greatest Marketers in the World

Remember back in the day when the circus came around at least once a year, how excited you got as a kid at the prospect of seeing a show of wonder an awe, a show you only ever got to see once a year?

But how did we know the circus was in town? There was never an ad in the paper, on the radio or on the TV (back in my day at least).  There was of course the giant tent in the local park and suddenly an infiltration of a bunch of interesting looking people hanging around that you’d never seen before….

But I didn’t live near the park and I didn’t go to the major shopping centre, so how did I know the circus was in town?

I knew the circus was in town because everywhere I looked was a poster or a sign TELLING me that the circus had arrived! On every street corner, in every shop, in every school newsletter, everywhere I looked was a poster advertising the circus.  Clearly the life of the circus depended on getting people to go and see it – and I reckon the life of the performers depended on it too.

Now you may think that in this day and age of social media that things have changed but a recent trip to the Gold Coast reminded me of what excellent marketers circus companies are.  There was 2 circus’ on when I was there, the Moscow circus and another one who’s name I don’t remember.  I don’t remember the other one because there was not a sign in sight other than on the tent in the parklands as I drove past it.  The Moscow circus marketing was everywhere, including several blow up clowns scattered from Broadbeach to Surfers, sitting on the footpath holding signs advertising the circus.

This reminded me that this type of saturation marketing actually builds up your expectation and you can’t NOT go and see the circus.  From at least 2 months out you used to see posters in shop windows, then they would add street signage to the mix, once they hit town the ground marketing really took charge and it didn’t stop once you got to the circus.  Before you even buy your ticket you’re entranced with all the fun things to do at the venue, which you spend more money on, you buy food before you go in, you buy food to feed the animals on your way past them, and you definitely make sure you bought one of this loud obnoxious horns so you could pay out on the clown!  All this before the show even starts.

Here’s the thing about circus marketers. They know their target demographic could be anyone, anywhere, anytime.  They don’t make assumptions about who might like their show and why they might come.  They probably don’t even care, it’s about survival and that means get the message to as many people as possible, through the cheapest means possible, and that means everyone who works at the circus is responsible for getting people to the show – if they don’t, they don’t have a show to perform in!

A band, a business, a shop or enterprise is no different to the circus – if people don’t come to see our show, there will be no show to see.

Remember the circus next time you’re writing your marketing plan, thinking about paying that company to put up your posters, or the rest of the band says, “marketing?  That’s not my job, I’m the bass player”.

The circus is the best marketer in the world, it’s focused, relentless, it uses every opportunity available and doesn’t cost the earth.  It also doesn’t stop until the curtain closes on the last show.

Update 18 June 2012

I just came across this great description of the differences between marketing, promotion and publicity – enjoy!


“… the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday’, that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.” If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales.”
– Attributed: M Booth and Associates, Public Relations Council