The death of the Ringling Brothers brand

A few days ago the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it is closing down. The combined circuses have been operating in one form or another for 146 years.

There was a time when they and other circuses were a big deal, showing their audiences animals and acts from exotic places that they could only dream about. They had a great PR stunt of parading into the town where they were to next perform.

Ringling Brothers circus parade
But times have changed. Their most popular act, the elephants, was also the most controversial. Given what we now know about how intelligent and sensitive elephants are, Ringling Brothers decided that they could no longer continue the elephant act. But attendance dropped even faster without the elephants.

They’re not the first circus to close; The Big Apple Circus also recently closed.

Cirque du Soleil has shown that there is a modern way to do a circus. They currently have 20 shows in circulation. Ringling Brothers, though, did not change with the times.

Many brands die. Being big is no defense; in fact, sometimes it can be an impediment to the changes needed to survive. Look at the history of the Dow Jones Industrial average and you’ll see dozens of companies that were once among America’s largest but now are gone, or acquired long ago by more successful competitors.

Business adheres to the law of the jungle: adapt or die.