Bad branding in orbit: Guy Laliberté soars while his cause brand drops

Guy Laliberté has always had his head among the stars. But all this week, information pills the French-Canadian founder of Cirque du Soleil – and #562 on the Forbes list of wealthiest people – is actually circling the earth as a paid tourist aboard the International Space Station. And true to form, he’s using the opportunity to do a bit of “over-the-top” showmanship. Unfortunately, Laliberté didn’t match his lofty ambitions with the same sophistication, taste, and branding savvy he’s usually shown on Earth. Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen…

Guy in space - 600w
In space, nobody can hear your eyes rolling: Here's Laliberté sitting in the coolest place any human could ever be, with three very lame words on his shirt.

The event: stars will align tomorrow night

Screencap with goreOn Friday, October 9th at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) Laliberté will be hosting a Webcast from space in support of his ONE DROP Foundation.

You can find out more details about the event and performers here.

But in brief, the Webcast will pull together material from 14 cities around the world, and feature contributions from such luminaries as Al Gore, David Suzuki, and Salma Hayek, as well as performances by U2, Shakira, and, wait for it… Guy Laliberté himself performing from the International Space Station.


However, much to the disappointment of Cirque fans around the planet, he won’t be stiltwalking, eating fire, or even playing accordion (which, unlike terrestrial billionaires, he can actually do).

He’ll be reading poetry.

And you thought there was no gravity in space!

Before we get too critical, let it be known we think the cause he’s supporting is a great one.

This is what the event Web site says about the purpose of his mission (and we’ll ignore the clunky copy writing for the moment):

Laliberté’s mission in space is dedicated to making an impact on how water, our most precious resource, is protected and shared. And he will be applying tools he has used so well for most of his life to bring about change: arts and culture.

Information about our world’s water-related issues will be conveyed using a singular poetic approach. The messages he will transmit from the ISS will build awareness for ONE DROP Foundation initiatives, its objectives and dream of “Water for all, all for water.”

Good on you Guy, for using your media exposure for a good cause. We at Beg to Differ envy and admire your incredible  chutzpah for reaching so high in pulling all this together.

But sad to say, there’s a “leak in the capsule” on this one.

See if you can find the problem in the image below:

Hint: the problem here ain't the smiling bald guy - or maybe it is...

Houston (Montreal, Moscow, etc.), we have a problem:

One of the dumbest, most pretentious names ever.

And the event’s subtitle doesn’t help: “Moving Stars and Earth for Water”.

Sorry Guy. It’s awkward in English. It’s pointless in French. It’s self-defeating as a brand strategy. And it’s totally counter to the taste and sophistication you’ve always applied to Cirque.

And worst of all, it focuses away from the parts of your mission that are really cool and worthy of attention:

  • Clean Water for earth! The wonder of space travel! A circus guy in space!

Instead it focuses on the lame (and painfully self-indulgent) parts of the picture:

  • Poetry reading! That mushy word “social”! Our sneaking suspicion that this may have more to do with your ego than water!

So Guy, next time you go to space, call me okay?

A branding expert could help you figure this stuff out before you blow millions of dollars making it all look like one big vanity project … or maybe at least help you make it look less like one.

One easy approach I would have suggested would be to call this whole project the “ONE DROP Clean Water for Earth Mission” and focused all your energies on building that one brand.

But that’s just one way we could have approached this. So seriously Guy. Call me next time. You can reach me here.

Bonus: Guy Laliberté video-blogs from space