I first learnt about Blue Ocean Strategy when I was a student in business school, and my team was studying a business case. The case focused on Cirque du Soleil, an entertainment group from Montreal, Quebec that redefined a declining circus industry and created a highly successful show simply by creating a product no other group had thought of. Today, Cirque du Soleil has become synonymous with Blue Ocean strategy, and many textbooks or articles are quick to use Cirque du Soleil as an example. On the contrary, Terry Fator's story has managed to stay under the radar. Not once has it been studied.
Before Cirque du Soleil, traditional circus groups utilized animal performances, magic tricks, clowns, acrobatics and a whole range of acts, all of which cost a lot of money to maintain. Unfortunately, attendances were down, costs were up, and profits were disappearing faster than rabbits in a magician's hat. Cirque du Soleil eliminated high cost acts such as animal performances, introduced live music and focused on appealing to a different type of consumer. Essentially, they created a new product and a new market, and made record profits. Likewise, Smartphones with touch screens existed before the iPhone, but Apple created something different, and consumers flocked to it. The list continues with Kelloggs and Frosted Flakes. They simply combined corn flakes and good old sugar to make a new product, and consumers gladly pay more than they pay for either Corn Flakes or sugar.
Terry Fator did the same thing, the main difference being he's an person, not a corporation. He combined 4 ordinary products and went from the guy performing at kids birthday parties to a major Las Vegas act with a $100 Million contract. These products - singing, ventriloquism, impressionism and comedy are hardly enough to make a superstar on their own. Just ask any of the other 99.99% of singers with CD demos in their back pockets who never make it past karaoke bars, or comedy acts who are stuck with 5 minute openers at their local comedy spots. However, what happens when you combine all 4 skills into one? Let me rephrase that. What happens when you have puppets that sing exactly like Etta James, Ceelo Green, Lady Gaga and 100 others? Big Win! Terry did exactly this and auditioned for season 2 of America's got Talent, barely expecting to make it into the top 20. His life took a big turn when he won, and he embarked on a journey that took him to the Mirage on a $100 Million contract.
Terry Fator was 41 when he won America's got Talent and 42 when he signed with the Mirage. 41 year old men do not suddenly become entertainment stars. It's a rare occurrence but that's the power of the blue ocean strategy. In today's competitive landscape, it's easier to combine different products to create a new one, than to rebuild one from scratch. If Cirque du Soleil's story inspires corporations to think outside the box, Terry Fator's story should inspire individuals looking for ways to break into existing markets.