Home Marketing Marketing and American Consumer Culture: A Cultural Studies Analysis
Once we found a cruise that looked like one we’d like to take, we started investigating the ship—The Norwegian Epic. The ship has an unusual bathroom configuration—a very controversial design which, it seems, most passengers do not like. This design is described on the Internet site Cruise Critic as follows:
A funky “new wave” design features in the majority of other staterooms (with the exception of inside cabins, villas, and some suites) and provoked plenty of comments when it was first unveiled. Think curvy walls, recessed ceilings, rounded queen-size beds, and arched sofas. The revolutionary bathrooms—which split the toilet and shower into two separate units— got most tongues wagging with much talk about the “see through” doors. In reality, the doors are translucent and couples and traveling companions of a nervous disposition can pull across a drape that effectively shuts off the bathroom area from the rest of the cabin; aside from the stand-alone wash basin that is situated at the foot of the bed.
Norwegian has not used this design again, so it remains unique in the Norwegian Line and the subject of many negative reviews of the ship. My wife and I thought about the unusual bathroom arrangement and finally decided that it wasn’t enough to dissuade us from taking the cruise. Despite the curious bathroom arrangement, we enjoyed the cruise a great deal. The food was generally quite good, the entertainment was superb, and the ports were interesting.
The “expert” reviewer on Cruise Critic was very positive about the ship. These reviews, which often point out some relatively minor negative aspects of ships, function as a form of advertising—what we might call “word of mouth” advertisements. Many of the positive reviews of the trips passengers took can also be seen as “word of mouth” advertisements. There were also many negative reviews of the ship. The negative reviews ranged from comments like “the worst cruise I’ve even taken” to “I’ll never sail with Norwegian again.” You find negative reviews for most mass market cruise ships. They are written by people who have highly motivated to express their negative views and are not typical of most people who have sailed on these ships.
I might point out that an inside stateroom on the Norwegian Epic cruise started at $679 per person, or less than $70 a day. To this one must add tips of $13.95 a day per person plus port charges, but you can see that this cruise was quite inexpensive. For this price, you get three meals a day (though you can eat all day long in the ship’s buffet/cafeteria), entertainment, and the chance to visit “exotic” places in relative comfort. I say “relative comfort” because the inside cabins are only 125 square feet. The Norwegian Epic can accommodate 4,200 passengers and has a crew of 1,700 people, which makes it one of the largest cruise ships in the world, though it pales in comparison to the Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas which can hold 6,500 passengers and a crew of around 2,000 people.
Different cruise ships focus on certain aspects of cruising in their advertisements. The Norwegian line emphasizes “Live Life to the Fullest” on the cover of its catalogue, and its Freestyle dining. You can dine whenever you want in its many restaurants—some of which are free and others are not. The Princess line stresses the notion that its passengers “come back new,” having been renewed by their experience on its ships. It adds, “Let the journey broaden your horizons and renew your spirit. ” Royal Caribbean stresses “adventure” on its ships, and boasts that its ships are the largest ones in the world. Now, all the cruise lines are building larger and larger ships. Regent Seven Seas, among the most upscale and expensive cruise lines, focuses on “Voyages to Explore,” and adds that it provides “The most inclusive luxury experience” on the cover of its catalogue. Its catalogue is 190 pages. One night on the Seven Seas ship can cost as much as a week on a mass cruise line such as Norwegian. The Crystal line’s catalogue is 234 pages long and also has a 46-page “Fare and Itinerary Guide.” Its pitch on the cover is “Begin a New Story.”
Adweek has a discussion of the attempt by cruise lines to lure Millennials (born between 1982 and 2004) into cruising. As Robert Mann wrote (August 24, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT):
But booking twenty-somethings on floating malls won’t be easy. Big boats are going after millennials. No longer the cliched floating destination for the newlywed or nearly dead, the industry is starting to woo younger travelers. Part of this strategy is simple common sense: The blue-haired customers won’t be around forever. But much of the strategy shift is being driven by the relentless building of ships. The $37 billion industry has six new ocean liners rising from the slips. These oceangoing behemoths will push global cruise capacity to more than 450,000 passengers, who’ll have 69 cruise lines to choose from. So there’s a lot at stake for a business that must find a way to sell its brand to younger travelers with a message of affordability and shorter trips.
In 2010 according to the New York Times, Carnival spent $66 million on advertising, Norwegian spent $56 million and Royal Caribbean spent $53 million. Since the Norwegian line has many fewer ships than Carnival or Royal Caribbean, it spent more money on advertising relative to the size of the cruise line. We can assume that the amount of money spent on cruise ship advertising of all kinds has increased substantially in recent years.
In Contemporary Marketing Update 2015 by Louis E. Boone and David L. Kurtz, we find that cruise lines think about market segments. They write in Case 9.1 “Cruise Companies Learn How to Cater to Distinct Market Segments”:
Passengers do fall into a number of traditional demographic categories that cruise marketers find useful. Analyzing factors like country of origin, language, economic status, and psychographics, marketers have devised distinct market segments. “Explorers” are well-to-do repeat customers, a small group that’s profitable but challenging to please. “Admirals” are older and loyal; they appreciate a traditional experience. “Marines” are young professionals on the lookout for better experiences each time; they’re eager to parasail and rock climb. “Little Mermaids” are upper- middle class families in search of a memorable vacation, while “Escapers” just want to get away from the daily grind without worries or complications. Finally, “Souvenirs” are in search of the best deal; price is their priority. Marketers even have a term for those whose interest and income make them unlikely to become cruise customers. They are “Adrift.”
Norwegian has a new theme for its advertising—“Feel Free,” which appeals to the “escapers” segment described by Boone and Kurtz. Norwegian hired a new advertising agency several years ago and came up with its new advertising message. A January 4, 2016 interview on the website Travel Weekly, in which Tom Stieghorst talks with the Norwegian Line’s Chief Marketing Officer Meg Lee, discusses how Norwegian arrived at this theme (http://travelweekly.com/In-the-Hot-Spot).
Q. What is the theme for Norwegian’s new advertising campaign?
A. “Feel Free.” That’s the theme. It’s more than just a campaign; it’s really sort of the brand tagline ...
Q. Can you elaborate on the idea behind it?
A. Norwegian uniquely delivers on our brand promise of freedom and flexibility in the experience we deliver to all our guests. We were looking for an idea that was clear and simple and could bring that to life. “Cruise like a Norwegian” is where we’ve been, and that... was very effective, but Norwegian is really expanding globally, in a very accelerated way. We needed an idea that’s more easily translated across languages and regions so we can position ourselves as a more global brand with a more consistent message and market regardless of country....
Q. What is the featured imagery? Is it the ships, is it the destinations, is it the activities, is it the customers themselves?
A. It’s all of those things.
This theme, “Feel Free,” was no doubt based on marketing research which indicated that passengers valued “freedom” to do what they wanted when they wanted to do it was an emotionally powerful inducement. In her interview, Lee talked about the importance ofemotion in the Norwegian advertisements and how they will emphasize the feeling of freedom in their branding.
A Norwegian Line’s “FEEL LIKE FOLLOWING THE STARS INSTEAD OF A SCHEDULE” advertisement shows a picture of a Norwegian Line ship in calm waters as the sun is setting. This advertisement emphasizes the freedom passengers have to “ follow the stars” (whatever that means) instead of following a schedule, which is tied to Norwegian’s “freestyle” cruising. It introduced this concept to cruising—passengers can eat whenever they want instead of signing up for dining at certain hours in the evenings—and lately being able to obtain a choice of free drinks, visits to a number of specialty restaurants, free Wi-Fi, or a limited number of free shore excursions at ports when they book their cabins. Passengers in certain cabins may get one of these free choices and passengers in suites typically get all of them. Other cruise lines are adopting this idea in various ways. Luxury lines always provide all these things free and midlevel lines like Norwegian are now imitating them.
These free offers are a powerful inducement to people considering cruises for they enable potential passengers to determine, more accurately, how much money they will spend on their cruises. We can see how the new Norwegian campaign fits in with the marketing segments described above. I should add that marketers are infamous for coming up with typologies like the Boone and Kurtz one on kinds of cruise passengers.
In a sense, individuals are of no interest to marketers. They are interested in groups of people who are similar in characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, and income. Marketers also target people based on their behavior on the Internet—a practice known as behavioral targeting. An article by Rebecca Walker Reczek, Christopher A. Summers, and Robert W. Smith on behavioral targeting that appeared in “The Conversation” (https://theconversation.com/online-ads-know-who-you-are-but-can- they-change-you-too) explains this practice:
Behavioral targeting uses information about nearly everything you do online— clicks, searches, social media, what you’ve bought and browsed—to select ads that marketers think will appeal to you based on your unique online behavior. Our recent research shows, however, that these ads do more than reflect your past or future preferences. They can change how you see yourself in fundamental ways.... Behavioral targeting predicts what you might like based on a profile of you that was created by tracking your online actions. To adopt Hollywood parlance, behavioral targeting typecasts you.
Marketers are always looking for ways to gain information about people’s interests, attitudes, and beliefs and now can obtain a great deal of what they are looking for by tracking people’s behavior on the Internet. What we may not realize is that the way marketers “label” us and target us in their advertisements to us can also change how we see ourselves.
It may be that after we receive enough advertisements from cruise lines, our resistance to cruising may be affected. So marketers may be shaping our behavior in ways we do not recognize. And if we take enough cruises, the cooks on the cruise ships may be shaping our bodies in ways that we recognize and about which we may be unhappy.
NATIONWIDE—APRIL 17, 2016—Crucon Cruise Outlet is offering exclusive perks—valued at up to $1500 per person—as part of a worldwide Celebrity Cruises sale ending Thursday. It covers sailings from June 2016-May 2017. In addition to savings of up to 45%, we love the enormity of the sale, which also includes: Unlimited drinks— including alcohol—and pre-paid gratuities (an $82-per-person daily value). Up to $300 in onboard credit based on length of cruise; the first few hundred to book also receive an additional $100-$200 credit. Over 25 departure ports worldwide (including Florida, California and New Jersey). Itineraries that span over 100 countries—from the Caribbean to Asia. Variety of cruise lengths (7-16 nights) and cabin types (ocean view to suites)
I cannot leave this discussion of cruise marketing without mentioning, again, that there is hardly a day that my wife and I don’t receive one or more emails or catalogues from ocean and river cruise lines. Sometimes small booklets for cruises come with our subscription to the New York Times. It is these catalogues that help us learn about cruise itineraries that are of interest to us. People who have done a good deal of cruising know that it generally pays to use cruise booking sites on the Internet rather than book with the line directly. For example, I recently booked a cruise on the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas.
When I called the Royal Caribbean line, I found out that booking an inside cabin for the two of us on a seven-day cruise in the Caribbean would cost around $1,920. I ultimately booked our cruise with an Internet travel site, Vacations to Go. I booked the same cruise, but in a cabin with a balcony, for $1,979. Anyone who has taken many cruises knows that the prices for cabins advertised by the cruise lines are much higher than the prices found on Internet cruise travel sites. So the moral is when you want to take a cruise or buy anything, look around on the Internet and see what you can save by undertaking a “consumer journey.”
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