Finding Your Inner Spoonman

Image of Montreal skyline, with Spoonman - Est. 1996 emblazoned above it.

Who is Cyrille Estève?

While I will introduce him to you in this post, more importantly I want to encourage you to find your own inner Cyrille – whether you’re building your business’ brand or trying to find your personal voice.

If you’ve ever been to Montreal and spent any time during the day on Ste-Catherines St., you likely know of Cyrille. If you’ve wandered by Ogilvy’s to check out its famous annual Christmas window display, you likely know of Cyrille. And if you’ve had the pleasure of working in Montreal’s downtown area, you – like me – likely have a love/hate relationship with Cyrille.

You see, Cyrille is better known as the Spoonman.

Photo of Montreal's Spoonman, Cyrille Estève taken by Jay MenardI spent many years working in downtown Montreal and was frequently ‘entertained’ by Estève playing the spoons in accompaniment of traditional francophone songs. I often return to visit friends and family, and spend time downtown – and the now-60-year-old Cyrille’s still there.

He has been since 1996. And, to be honest, I’m not sure how many actual “tunes” he knows. It all sounds the same (hence my love/hate statement). But he’s always there.

He’s fought off the forces of government (a 2004 ordinance attempted to ban “spoon-playing or clicking cutlery” was met by petitions and threats of boycotts); he’s survived countless Montreal winters.

He is, to put it simply, a vital part of my Montreal. And I’m not alone.

Some deign to elevate Estève to that holy trinity of iconic Montrealisms (the CH of the Montreal Canadiens, bagels, and smoked meat -- as opposed to, I guess, an actual Holy Trinity of the cross on Mount Royal, St. Joseph's Oratory, and Notre Dame). The point is, he’s unique and he’s memorable. He’s a shared point of reference for locals and tourists alike.

So what is your Spoonman?

What differentiates you? What makes you memorable? And it’s more than just a message – it’s an experience. What, in your bricks-and-mortar store is worth celebrating?

It goes beyond professing product quality, exceptional service, and value – we all offer that. It’s about something more tangible. What moments set you apart? It can be anything from a signature dish (there are many Londoners – past and present -- who love the Wally Burger at Prince Albert’s Diner; whereas I’m more partial to the Theatre of Cruelty or Zeus Burgers) or a personalized experience (Kingsmill’s elevator operator Mary Hughes, anyone?)

Yet that tangibility can also lie in the ephemeral.


Look, I’m not going to go all Wizard Guru Grand Poobah of the Social Media Order of Waterbuffaloes on you, but your Spoonman can be an experience, a feeling, or an emotion. Making your customer smile, laugh, or think; giving them a memory or experience that sets you apart from the competition? That’s a Spoonman.

The biggest brands in the world set themselves apart. Pepsi, McDonald’s, Reebok – can you say their products or service are distinctively better than their competition? Likely not? So why do they stand out?

Because of their Spoonman. How many parents profess to hate the golden arches? But like the pied piper its Spoonman sings a compelling song to their children – and before you know it you’re picking up a happy meal.

So who is your Cyrille? And how do you celebrate your inner Spoonman?

Comments, as always, are open.

Questions Answered

How do I stand out from the competition?

How do I make my business sound different from the rest?

What's my compelling selling message?



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