Home Marketing Marketing and American Consumer Culture: A Cultural Studies Analysis
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As we will see, in our study of cruise tourism, different ocean cruise lines make different appeals to potential passengers.
A Case Study: Marketing Cruise Tourism
Marketers now like to talk about consumer “journeys.” They discuss all the things consumers do, all the steps they take, from the moment they decide to purchase something, like an automobile or a computer, until they actually make the purchase. In some cases, a consumer journey can involve dozens of searches on Google for information.
Tourism is the largest industry in the world now. As Dean MacCannell writes in the introduction to his book The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (1976:2):
“Tourist” is used to mean two things in this book. It designates actually tourists: sightseers, mainly middle class, who are at the moment deployed throughout the entire world in search of experience... . The tourist is an actual person, or real people are actually tourists. As the same time, “the tourist” is one of the best models of modern-man-in-general.
MacCannell then offers a semiotically informed analysis of the nature of tourism and its impact upon society. He points out that tourists are influenced by “markers,” information about the destinations and the kinds of tourism that people planning trips seekout. He explains that (1976:41) “markers may take many different forms: guidebooks, informational tablets, slide shows, travelogues, souvenir matchbooks, etc.”
To this list, we can add brochures and catalogues published by cruise lines and print and television commercials (and now material of all kinds on social media) that play an important role in convincing people to take a cruise on a particular ship and line to a specific destination (though there are cruises to nowhere). For MacCannell, there are the following aspects to becoming a tourist: first, tourists search for sights to see (or in semiotic parlance, signs of cultural importance); second, they consult markers; and third, they find a way to visit an attraction. One thing cruises do is enable people to visit a number of different sightseeing destinations (ports) on a cruise with relatively little inconvenience.
The Norwegian Epic. Photo by Arthur Asa Berger
Book a Cruise: A Consumer’s Journey to Make a Journey
If you think of all the different aspects of taking a trip, you can understand why cruises are so popular. Once you get on the cruise ship, life becomes easy. But getting to the ship can be complicated. Let’s consider a trip my wife and I took to Barcelona, where we spent five nights in an apartment we booked on the Internet (using Wimdu). Then we took a ten-day cruise on The Norwegian Epic to Tangier, the Canary Islands, Funchal, and Malaga. This trip involved the following elements in my “consumer’s journey”:
Investigating cruises. We chose one from Barcelona to the Canary Islands.
Booking the cruise after much research on the cruise ship we took, The Norwegian Epic.
Buying travel guides on Barcelona and the Canary Islands.
Booking flights from San Francisco to Barcelona via Amsterdam. Getting from our house to the airport in San Francisco. We took an airporter bus.
Waiting in the airport in Amsterdam for flight to Barcelona.
Taking the flight to Barcelona.
Finding our apartment in Barcelona. We booked an apartment for five nights.
Getting from the airport in Barcelona to our rented apartment. Eating and sightseeing while in Barcelona.
Getting from our apartment in Barcelona to the cruise ship. Looking for information about the ports that the ship visited: Tangier, the Canary Islands, Funchal, and Malaga.
Taking the cruise.
Getting from the cruise ship to the airport in Barcelona.
Flying from Barcelona to New York City.
Waiting in the airport in New York for flight to San Francisco. Flying to San Francisco.
Getting from the San Francisco airport to our house.
This trip involved buses, taxis, airplanes, cruise ships, restaurants, hotels (in our case a rented apartment), guides, travel agents, airline ticketing people, and countless others. When you travel, you also need luggage, reading material, sunblock, insect repellent, snacks, travel clothes (on some cruises there are formal nights so passengers need dark suits, in some cases tuxedos, and gowns), walking shoes, money for tips, and countless other things.
In short, even a relatively simple trip like a short visit to Barcelona and taking a ten-day cruise involves many different kinds of transportation and a seemingly endless number of expenses—everything from airline tickets and cruise tickets to tips to bus drivers, taxi drivers, guides, waiters in restaurants, the waiters and stewards on the ship, and so on—ad infinitum.
Cruise ships are popular with many tourists because you pay for everything upfront and don’t have to keep paying for things at every turn. Now many lines, like Norwegian, have deals in which you pay for drinks and excursions upfront, too, so there are hardly any expenses on a cruise, except for dining in specialty restaurants, which is discretionary. You can book dining in specialty restaurants upfront, also, and in some cabin categories, you get drinks, specialty dining, and excursions for free.
Cruising must be very profitable because the cruise lines spend a great deal of money on print advertisements in magazines and newspapers, television commercials, and brochures, and catalogues. My wife and I receive brochures in the mail three or four times a week and I receive email advertisements from different cruise lines almost every day. The cruise lines all have catalogues which have photos of typical cruise takers, pitches about the advantages of cruising, and then material on the cruises covering a year or two—generally printed on very fine enamel papers and expensively produced.
We took the cruise from Barcelona because I was looking through a Norwegian lines catalogue and noticed the ten-day cruise to the Canary Islands and Morocco. I circled the cruise description (shown below) and showed it to my wife. We had never been to the Canary Islands and thought the cruise would be interesting to take, with some fascinating ports to visit. The material from the Norwegian catalogue I circled is shown below.
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