“Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth!” – What can you learn from this 19th century showman’s experiences? [Monday: Marketing Marvels]
Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more.
A Note from Miles Everson:
Hi, everyone. How was your weekend?
We hope you all had restful days off with your family and friends.
Let’s start the work week with inspiration from today’s “Marketing Marvel.” Every Monday, we feature these kinds of people and highlight their work, insights, experiences, and contributions in the business landscape.
In today’s article, we’ll talk about the business and marketing lessons we can learn from America’s “Greatest Showman” who lived in the early 1800s.
Continue reading to find out who we are referring to. May today’s topic motivate you to do your job well as a business leader, marketer, copywriter, manager, or independent professional.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for!”
Suddenly, all the lights go out. The circus crowd falls silent, watching and waiting in suspense. Then, a single spotlight breaks into the darkness, revealing the person in the middle of the stage.
The ringmaster, a tall and stately man wearing a tuxedo and top hat, raises his hands and shouts out: “Welcome to the greatest show on Earth!”
Finally, the circus begins.
The audience watches in awe as mysterious characters, remarkable stunts, and fantastic performances unfold. After the show, the crowd leaves in a trance, processing all the wonders they just witnessed.
The inspiration for this captivating circus experience began in Connecticut during the 1840s when businessman and creative genius P.T. Barnum established his American Museum, a showcase of extraordinary characters and wonderful sights.
His brilliant career is a tale of marketing innovation and business success…
Photo from Connecticut History
Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was a showman, businessman, and politician remembered for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
As a small business owner in his early 20s, Barnum founded a weekly newspaper before moving to New York City in 1834. He then pursued an entertainment career, first with a variety troupe called, “Barnum’s Grand Scientific and Musical Theater,” and soon after with “Scudder’s American Museum,” which he purchased and renamed after himself.
Barnum used his newly owned museum as a platform to tickle human curiosities and showcase interesting characters like the Fiji Mermaid and General Tom Thumb.
[Fiji Mermaid: This was one of Barnum’s collections that’s composed of a torso and head of a juvenile monkey attached to the back half of a fish. This statue was always displayed in Barnum’s museum and sometimes used as one of the accessories in his circus events.
General Tom Thumb: He was an actual person who made appearances in the museum and achieved great fame as one of Barnum’s circus performers.]
In 1850, the circus pioneer and owner promoted the American tour of Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind. This led to the singer earning USD 1,000 per night for 150 nights.
In case you’re wondering, USD 1,000 in the 1850s is equivalent to USD 36,860 today. This means if Lind’s American tour happened at present, she would have earned over USD 5 million in today’s dollar throughout her tour!
Imagine the marketing impact Barnum and his circus had on Lind! That’s MASSIVE and AWESOME!
As a showman and owner of a successful circus business (his circus closed down only in 2017), Barnum’s life and experiences are full of marketing lessons that you can apply today.
His book that was published in 1880, “The Art of Getting Money,” provides guidelines that industry professionals can follow to be successful in their business and financial endeavors.
Here are some of them:
- Find time to read.
Barnum was a BIG advocate of reading. In one part of his book, he used the example of a hostess buying candles.
The hostess needed the candles so she could read at night. However, she said the candles were too expensive. Barnum wrote that the knowledge the hostess would gain from reading would far outweigh the expense of the candles.
He said that by not spending her money, she would actually be poorer.
He also believes reading is a significant factor that helps people gain knowledge. For him, the habit of reading is necessary to stay up-to-date with the latest information, cultivate the mindset needed to effectively lead others, and build a business.
Fun Fact: Many business leaders read 4 to 5 books per month. For example, Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates reads one book per week, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading, and TV personality and media proprietor Mark Cuban spends 3 hours a day reading.
- Be polite and kind to your customers and clients.
One of the things Barnum was known for was he treated his customers well. He was fair in his pricing, ensuring everyone could afford to attend his circus shows.
As he said in his book,
“Those who drive sharp bargains with their customers, acting as if they never expected to see them again, will not be mistaken. They will never see them again as customers.”
The bottom line?
The noble art is that of making others (your customers) happy!
Fun Fact: Amazon’s Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos is famed for his commitment to serve customers. He states Amazon’s key to success is “obsessive-compulsive focus” on customers over competitors.
Barnum focused on earning profits—no matter how big or small—and doing things one step at a time rather than taking on debt and venturing into multiple businesses all at once to fund his expansion plans.
He wrote in his book:
“When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.”
He demonstrated this principle in his life as a businessman…
After succeeding in his circus venture, Barnum expanded into other pursuits. He created beauty contests, opened the first giant aquarium in the US, and introduced fine arts by promoting Lind’s American tour.
These showed that Barnum wasn’t against business expansion; he just wanted to achieve it at a managed and focused pace.
Fun Fact: Apple CEO Tim Cook says what he admires most about Steve Jobs, the company’s founder, was his focus that “was unlike any other.” When Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, he reduced Apple’s product line from a wide range to just 4 different computers.
This allowed the company to focus on creating 4 excellent, profit-earning products while eliminating unprofitable ones. Additionally, this focus led Apple to creating the game-changing iMac!
- Understand consumer psychology.
Barnum employed consumer psychology long before there were customer surveys, market research, and consumer insights. There were no Google analytics yet during his time, but he strived to understand why people do or buy things.
This knowledge enabled him to create products and services based on the gaps in the market.
Example: During Barnum’s time, live entertainment was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. This meant a large majority of the population were ignored as theater and drama productions only targeted the rich.
To fill this gap, he created circus shows as family entertainment for the masses. He kept prices affordable and delivered high-quality shows that made attendees feel good. This led to Barnum’s successful circus business!
Fun Fact: Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, tells employees to focus on their customers and listen to what they’re saying. Michael Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, also instills a similar philosophy of customer engagement.
Now, both these companies use a scientific process to understand and delight customers, and to create personalized experiences and recommendations for them. This makes both companies part of the leading brands in their respective industries.
Barnum’s entire life was often described by scholars as an ongoing advertising campaign. His experiences were packed with marketing insights that are still relevant today.
He was known for always putting on a performance—he spun stories, elevated oddities, and engaged his audience with his imaginative exploits. Without the advanced technologies that we have nowadays, his success came from his resourcefulness and sharp intuition.
Take tips from Barnum’s showman history and let his time-tested principles guide you!
By applying his insights in your own business and marketing strategies, you’ll also achieve the kind of success the “Greatest Showman” achieved AND establish good relationships with your target market.
Now this is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Monday Marketing Marvels”
Too often, industry experts and the marketing press sing the praises of some brand or company’s marketing strategy.
… only for the audience to later find out that its product was a flop, or worse, that the brand or company went bankrupt.
The true ROI in marketing can’t be separated from the business as a whole.
What good is a marketing case study if one can’t prove that the company’s efforts actually paid off?
At the end of the day, either the entire business is successful or it isn’t. And the roles of marketing and communication are always paramount to that success.
Every Monday, we publish a case study that highlights the world’s greatest marketing strategies, marketers, and communicators.
However, the difference between our articles and the numerous ones out there is that we will always make certain that the firm really did generate and demonstrate earning power worthy of study in the first place (compliments of Valens Research’s finance group) in keeping with a person’s leadership skills in the area of marketing and/or communication.
We’ll also study the greatest marketing fails and analyze what they did wrong, or what they needed to improve. We all make our mistakes, but better we learn from others’ mistakes—and earlier, rather than later.
Hope you found this week’s marketing marvel interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next week’s Monday Marketing Marvels!
Head of Marketing
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