Bio: Mickey Lonchar opted for a career in advertising after many assurances it would not require any math or heavy lifting. Having spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.
Posts by Mickey:
If you held the original patent on the modern slide rule (first introduced by a French artillery lieutenant in 1859), for more than 110 years you had a license to print money.
Over the years, the slide rule got simpler, more colorful, slimmer and even more specialized. In the 1930s, for example, the revolutionary E6B model was released–a circular slide rule created specifically for airline pilots. In 1952, the Swiss watch company Breitling took the E6B a leap further by embedding a circular slide rule into a pilot’s wrist watch.
More than 100 years of iterations, based on the same basic technology.
Then the ceiling caved in. In 1976, Texas Instruments released the TI-30–a $25 scientific calculator that rendered 100 years of slide rule technology obsolete.
Okay, so enough with the slide rule history lesson already. What this story really demonstrates is how most “innovation” comes in the form of incremental improvements. And to the outside observer, those incremental improvements were just what was called for. The world didn’t need (and wasn’t looking for) a new technology to replace the slide rule for calculating trig equations or logarithms. But when the pocket calculator came along (which was more or less a “repurposing” of off-the-shelf technologies that made the transistor radio possible), well, 100 years of ”new and improved” slide rules weren’t worth the wood they were made of.
Such is the dynamic of “disruptive technologies.” They seemingly come out of nowhere, but are mostly just a reimagining of existing technologies, harnessed for a specific new purpose.
Disruptive technologies have been with us for a long time. Flushing toilets, electric lighting, frozen entrees, the iPod. These are a few not-so-distant examples. Of late, it seems every time your pick up the paper (though today it’s most likely a tablet), you’ll read about yet another long-standing technology that’s been banished to the history books. Be it record stores, travel agencies, film cameras or “snail mail.”
The photo to the right gives us a snapshot of how personal technologies have evolved in just the last two decades.
With “disruptive” technologies now coming at us faster and faster, what can industry do to make sure they’re not on the same track as the slide rule? A few things come to mind:
- Develop a “flanking strategy.” Just because you own 90% of the market doesn’t mean you always will. No matter your market share, you are potentially one technological advance away from being out of business. So rather than stay “fat and happy” with your situation, invest 10% of your profits towards a flanking strategy. Call it your “what if” fund. Create a division whose only job is to look at new technologies in other categories and ask “what if we could harness them in our category.” Xerox did this in the 1960s, and ended up patenting many of the technologies that are now commonplace in our personal computers. Tech companies live-and-die by flanking strategies. They are under continual pressure to innovate or die. Borrow some of this imperative for your category.
- Whatever you do, continually add value for your customers. Some breakthroughs are of the truly mundane variety. It’s just that no one had applied them to certain industries before. Southwest did it when they understood they were in the hospitality business as much as they were in the travel business. So they went all-in on recruiting the friendliest people, training them, and giving them the freedom to create great experiences for their customers. This at a time when most carriers saw themselves as “ways to get from point-A to point-B.”
- Understand your customers’ pain points. Actually go out and “live in your customer’s shoes” to see what she sees, experience things the way she does. You’ll find out rather quickly that your offerings are a mere blip in her existence, and that there are things you may be able to do to make her life easier elsewhere. For example, understanding how important the commodity of “time” is to modern families, a “60 minute guarantee” or something similar in a category that might not seem time-sensitive could be worth testing.
One thing is for sure. Technology is going to be with us, and it’s going to change change things quickly. By staying as knowledgeable about your customers, and being as relevant as possible for them, you’ll keep yourself on the “calculator” track.
Posted by Mickey
Think for a moment about all the different types of “experiences” a typical consumer might have with your brand.
She might see a commercial on TV. She might read a press article that mentions you. She might see your product on the shelf at retail. She might read a post in her Facebook news feed from a friend. She might run across your brand while conducting an unrelated web search, or on a third-party website (such as Amazon). She might receive an electronic coupon at the point-of-sale. She might even hear your name mentioned in a news story (let’s hope it’s not for the wrong reasons). Or, she might proactively seek out what previous customers have to say about you on Yelp. Or she could do her own Google search.
Wow, that’s a ton of touchpoints.
With so many ways for consumers to get “exposed” to you (and the 5,000 other marketers they’ll run across today), does that make it more likely she’ll purchase from you? Or is it just a bunch of clutter that confuses matters, and makes it harder to break through?
The best definition of a “brand” I have heard is “the sum of everything you know, hear, believe, feel and experience about a particular product or company.” If we accept this definition, then we can see how every way your brand “touches” your consumer or prospect contributes to your “brand” in their view.
So how do you make sure that the customer hears a consistent narrative across all these possible touchpoints?
While there is no controlling everything that’s said/written/shared/experienced about you, there is one powerful tool you have at your disposal:
Walking the talk.
Find out what your most devoted fans love about you. Why they’d never leave you. Why they feel you can’t be replaced. (This is your “talk”.) Then take that one thing, and amplify it every way you can throughout your value chain. And live by it, no matter what. (This is the “walk” part.)
If you conclude your competitive difference is that you offer the best service, see what you can do to kick it up a notch. For everyone, everytime, whether they are a customer or not. No phone trees. No “let me talk to my supervisor.” No “that’s not our policy.”
Southwest AIrlines found that fans flocked to them because they were the “low fare airline.” So they found dozens of ways to amplify and demonstrate that, from offering ridiculous “super saver” fares, to not charging for bags, to not offering food service, to having the industry’s simplest frequent flyer program, to keeping their planes in the air 20% more than competing airlines (cutting downtime).
By uncompromisingly walking the talk, you are creating consistent perceptions, experiences and stories that are passed forward. These are the “tidbits” that go into formulating your “brand” in consumers’ minds. The more consistent you are, the more consistent the stories will be, and the more consistent your brand narrative will be.
And yes, the more you’ll break through the morass of clutter out there.
Posted by Mickey
Might not sound sexy. But it just might be the formula to your future success.
In a world that’s getting more complex, more complicated and more unpredictable, Fast, Simple and Consistent offers an oasis to the harried consumer. It removes anxiety, adds reassurance and becomes something he can “count on.”
Let’s face facts. Consumers today don’t have the time or temperment to learn one more set of instructions. Or spend any more minutes navigating a phone tree. Or learn the intracacies of a new version of software. Or figure out why, if something is “new and improved,” it doesn’t do some things as well as the version you just killed off. Yet often, all this becomes the price for innovation.
As much as consumers prefer fast-simple-consistent now, it will be even more important in the near future. The Millennial generation (born between 1982 and 2001) is poised to become the marketing “sweet spot” for a lot of marketers. They are projected to surpass Boomers as the dominant consumer market (64 million U.S. households by 2020). And guess what their number one driver is? If you said “fast-simple-consistent,” then make your way to the head of the class.
As marketers, it’s in our nature to approach problems with a mindset of “more.” More features, more colors, more sizes, more niche variations, more uses, more brand spin-offs, more capabilities. We think we’re doing it as a way to give the consumer what she’s been asking for and what will keep her satisfied. But in a lot of cases, what we’re really doing is making it harder for her to work with us.
We need to break free of the “more mentality” and filter new initiatives and decisions by asking “Is this making life easier for our customers?” We need to start equating “innovation” with “simplicity.” And most of all, we need to live life in our customers’ shoes so we can experience what she experiences, pain points and all.
In fact, if you defined your brand personality right now as “the company that’s easiest to work with,” you’d be on the path to success.
Posted by Mickey
These have hardly been salad days for the sugary drink category.
According to a report released this month by Beverage Digest, consumers are swilling less soda, leading the category to decline for the eighth straight year. The amount of soda consumed worldwide in 2012 is down to 1996 levels. Here in the U.S., it has fallen to 1987 levels. In fact, the only brands that haven’t experienced a significant sales drop are Coke, Sprite and Diet Dr. Pepper (sales of these brands were flat–at least they didn’t lose ground).
The reasons for this category-wide dip are mainly over health concerns. With two-thirds of American adults now labeled as “overweight to obese,” the major soda companies have been held up as major culprits.
This seems to be one problem the category isn’t able to spend its way out of. Ad spending for major brands is at an all-time high, In fact, PepsiCo’s global ad spending for the first quarter of 2013 is up a staggering 11%. Yet the snack and beverage giant’s profits have fallen 5% for the same period.
So what are the soda companies to do? They have mountains of cash at their disposal. Their brand names are some of the most recognized in the world. And distribution? They’re about as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. Both Pepsi and Coke are acknowledged leaders in both mobile and social media (Coke, in fact, has the most Facebook fans of any brand–more than 61 million).
For clues as to what might help them and what probably won’t, let’s look at what the category’s two biggest players are doing.
Pepsi has doubled down on tying the brand’s future to well-known celebrities. The takeaway from its advertising and promotion seems to be “if you like this celebrity, then you’ll like Pepsi.” This strategy worked like gangbusters in the 1980s. Celebs like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Michael J. Fox and others made Pepsi the “cool” soda choice. Today, however, their much-publicized “creative partnership” with Beyonce is proving to be a multi-million dollar dud. What’s more, the brand’s big-money forays into social media promotion have yet to cause a sales ripple (more on that in this post).
Coca Cola on the other hand is taking a different tact. They are associating the brand with the mantra of “happiness.” The brand’s advertising is “including” users, not talking (or performing) at them. Associating a brand with a positive emotion is going to be more effective every time.
Another interesting tact Coke is taking is its attempt to be more transparent, and actually address the obesity issue head on. The world’s most valuable brand has openly acknowledged obesity as “the issue of this generation.” It launched an ad campaign aimed at “reinforcing (its commitment) to finding meaningful solutions to the complex challenge of obesity.”
Will this approach work? It definitely has proven to be somewhat controversial. Critics claim it’s no more than an attempt to distract from the real issue. My view is that it never hurts to acknowledge the truth (at least the truth most people accept). So long as there is a meaningful commitment to improve things.
We’ve yet to see how Coke intends to follow up its ad campaign. As a next step, I’d implore Coke to put its money where its mouth is, by creating and supporting events and promotions that reward people for lifestyle changes. Even if it means they drink a few less cans of Coke a week. Don’t simply treat this as a “health initiative.” Tie the health aspect into the whole “happiness” hook the brand has latched on to.
Even if effective, will such a program work to reverse the trend of faltering soda sales? Highly unlikely. However, even declining categories have their “good guys,” and Coke is primed to be that company.
Committing to help people address the “challenge of a generation” will, I believe, do more to promote the brand that a halftime concert at the Super Bowl.
Posted by Mickey
This week, two big cases were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, both having to do with gay rights: California’s Proposition 8, and the Federal Defense Of Marriage Act.
In anticipation of these cases going before the highest court, an LGBT lobbying group called Human Rights Campaign (HRC) turned to the Internet to drum up support in favor of overturning of both cases. They asked well known celebrities (such as Ellen DeGeneres, Lance Bass and George Takei) to change their social media “avatars” to the group’s pink-and-red-equal-sign logo for the two days of arguments. Almost immediately many other sympathetic people did likewise, and Facebook and Twitter were awash in HRC’s logo. This was a simple way ordinary people could show their support to the causes.
Then something interesting happened. Versions of the HRC logo started turning up on brand pages and in brand tweets. Major ad players like Bud Light, HBO and others adopted the HRC logo, if only for a day or so.
A few years ago, a major brand going out on a political limb like this would have been unthinkable. Communications were in a “corporate voice” and left little room for supporting anything other than “politically safe” causes, if any. Seemingly overnight, brands have started letting their “human side” show through. Brands have discovered that people crave authenticity, and seek out stories from organizations and companies that “sound” like they do. Brands are ditching the management-approved “corporate speak” of not so long ago, and are now talking to customers as if they were people (because, well, they are).
Customers and fans have embraced this switch. One need look no farther than the Facebook timelines of some amazingly large companies (Starbucks as an example) to see how this plays out. And brands? They’ve seen how “brand stories” go a long way towards stimulating new purchases and building customer loyalty.
Looked at in this light, it’s a no-brainer to see how brands could glom on to a real-time meme like this. Brands know a lot more about their customers now than they used to. Not just in regard to their products, but in regard to life. They’re getting in tune with their fans’ likes, dislikes, what’s important to them, what gets them excited, what turns them off, and yes, even their political preferences.
So when you see Bud Light or HBO’s “True Blood” “coming out”, so to speak, it’s not so much about taking a political stand as it is marching with their customers.
If you’d feel a little queasy about having your brand step out on this ledge, just know this is a trend that’s going to gain momentum. People like to do business with “people who are like them.” And sometimes your brand can demonstraate that it is that person.
Posted by Mickey
This week, Coca Cola released results of a study that concluded that online “buzz” has no measurable impact on sales.
That’s right. The company that’s arguably the most “social” organization in the world (with a record 61.5 million Facebook Fans) says there’s no relationship between online generated buzz and sales. (Well, almost. The study did give buzz credit for 0.01% of increased sales.)
So what exactly does this mean? That social media, while entertaining, does not contribute to sales?
For starters, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between social media “participation” and social media “buzz.” Buzz is primarily generated by a single piece of content or single event (think Red Bull’s space jump, written about here). These things are created solely to get eyeballs, and rarely have anything to contribute on behalf of the sponsoring product or organization. Another example would be this Long-Distance Slip-and-Slide video produced by Microsoft:
No doubt about it, this is amazing content. People may like it.. They may even share it. But would you seriously believe a slip-and-slide video would persuade people to buy a Windows computer? Or that a stunt like the space jump, no matter how spectacular, would have people lining up outside convenience stores for a Red Bull?
Social media participation, on the other hand, is not nearly as sexy. It’s not the atomic bomb, it’s winning the battle hill-by-hill. It’s never going to be a trending topic on Twitter. It’s never going to generate 20 million views. Instead, it’s an ongoing effort to engage fans and customers on a deeper level, where they hang out. It’s a way to listen to customers, try out ideas, provide “insider” content and provide one-to-one customer service. Basically a way to help your organization become more “human” for your customers.
What I hate about studies like this one from Coke (and the accompanying news coverage) is that things tend to get painted with a broad brush. Nuance is nowhere to be found. It’s either “this” or it’s “that.”
Successful marketing today requires a complete toolbox of owned, earned, shared and paid media. Attempting to break one of these out to determine its ROI is a fool’s errand.
It helps to think of social as a “trailing” tactic (nearly all people who become ‘Fans’ are already customers, and prefer you already). As such, social’s true value in the marketing funnel is to engage with converted customers on a deeper level, to give them more opportunities to interface with the brand, to shorten the buying cycle, to stem churn and learn more about your audience.
If you still question the value of social media to the marketing process, consider this: the more time your customers spend interfacing with your brand, the less opportunity (and inclination) they have to interface with your competitors.
Posted by Mickey
Way back in 2009 (ancient history in the digital world), Daily Deals providers such as Groupon and LivingSocial sprouted up on the digital landscape like weeds on an untended lawn. In the beginning, they were all the rage. Consumers welcomed them. Social pundits loved them. And local restaurants and retailers saw them as a great way to affordably bring in new customers. Some pundits even proclaimed Groupon to be “the next eBay.”
Here some three-plus years later, things aren’t looking so sanguine for them. So much so, that Groupon sacked its Founder and CEO due to its listless financials. (His legendary farewell letter to staff is worth reading, and can be found here.) And another pioneer of the Daily Deal, LivingSocial (the #2 player in the industry), is rumored to soon be sucked up by a larger company or get the plug pulled on it altogether as early as next year.
So how did the major Daily Dealers go from being the fair-haired child to the ugly stepsister in just a few years? A few factors conspired to hamper these firms:
- The market became highly fragmented. Every locality in the country seemed to have sprouted its own Daily Deal services, and a lot of these focused on narrow niches. Plus a lot of offline providers jumped in as well (television stations and newspapers, as an example). The national players haven’t done enough to differentiate themselves from the local competition.
- A lot of meat-and-potatoes businesses became disenchanted with participating. Groupon, et al, took a massive cut of the Daily Deals purchases. So often participants had to settle for a few crumbs from the paid voucher amount, sometimes not even covering their costs. While some participants had fantastic experiences with Daily Deals, many others didn’t. After a while, you could see which businesses would benefit, and which wouldn’t. But sadly, Groupon, LivingSocial and company treated business owners like pigeons, and took all takers instead of focusing on businesses their services could really help.
- The Daily Deal offerings are all over the map. Here’s an example: my kids are teenagers. So why did I received offerings more applicable to young families (such as a diaper service)? A few of those, and you can’t blame consumers for questioning the services’ relevance.
- The market turned out to not be as large as was originally projected. Annual growth has been around 3%, which in the digital realm is beyond stagnant.
So is there any saving the major Daily Deals players? Heck yeah. But there are a few adjustments they’ll need to make:
- Provide more relevant offers, and get involved in after-the-sale follow-up. Get to know customers’ interests better. Look at purchase patterns. Look at price points. If need be, send out surveys and questionnaires in return for “Groupon Bucks.” Learn from every purchase, and follow up with purchasers to have them evaluate their purchases.
- Focus especially on the highest value users. Twenty percent of the Daily Deal audience accounts for 80% of the sales. So do whatever it takes to cater to this group and build loyalty and evangelism among them. Create a rewards program that provides points for every purchase that can be redeemed for vouchers. Provide amazing exclusive deals that can only be “unlocked” by users once they reach a certain level. Create events specifically for this group of buyers.
- Mend fences with the local business communities. The feedback from the original model is pretty clear. Do more to partner with local businesses to make sure they succeed, give them tools to get the most out of their offerings, and don’t take a powder on them once their check are cashed.
Simply stated, the main problem with Groupon and LivingSocial is that they are more focused on being profitable than being relevant. For them to survive, that has to change.
Posted by Mickey
If you were hobnobbing at a cocktail party, and asked anyone there what business they were were in, most likely you’d get an answer of the functional variety. “We’re in the tire business.” “We manufacture airplane parts.” “We’re a high-end steak house.”
What you’re not likely to hear is “We’re in the business of creating amazing experiences for our customers.” And in these days of information overload, categories bleeding into one another and seemingly endless consumer choices, creating an amazing experience should be Job One for successful marketers.
Rather than focus on what they do, successful marketers focus on why customers would be attracted to them.
Positive experiences are viral. Customers talk about them. They get spread across the world wide web. They take on a life of their own, without involvement from the marketer. And for most consumers, reading/hearing of others’ experiences carry more weight than what they hear from the companies themselves.
Positive experiences can be pre-emptive and remain a constant in categories of ever-changing variables. And more often than not, they can scale.
There are tons of social psychology studies that show that sparking an emotional response in customers not only serves as a “trigger moment” where the buying decision is made, but is also what drives customers to take “ownership” of the product or brand, and see it as a part of their little world.
Sounds pretty aerie-fairy in this world of spreadsheets, analytics and focus groups. But it’s the one thing that can help elevate you above the plethora of competitors that are out there.
Just ask Apple, Amazon or Nike.
While these may be considered extreme examples, nevertheless their businesses have been built by creating amazing experiences (just look at the number of “Apple Unboxing Videos” you’ll find on YouTube).
What makes companies like these stand out is not necessarily the functionality of what they sell. It’s their undying commitment to providing positive (and unique, and often times surprising) user experiences.
Which leads to the question, how can a company or business go about “manufacturing” a positive experience? While the formula will likely vary category to category and business to business, there are three things that are universal:
1) Find out what your most loyal customers appreciate about you, and put that on steroids. Figure out how every customer or prospect can experience that part of you.
2) Figure out your category’s customer “pain points” and see what you can do to either eliminate or minimize them for customers doing business with you.
3) Perhaps most importantly, surprise customers with something they weren’t expecting and can’t find anywhere else. This not only provides a unique and memorable experience that will be easily shared, but it also helps compensate for areas in your value chain where you might not be the best.
The success of marketing can be summed up in this statement: “It’s not about what you say. It’s not about what you do. It’s about how you make them feel.”
Posted by Mickey
Here’s a brain teaser for you. Let’s say you purchased a ball and a bat, and the total for the two was $1.10. In this instance, the bat costs exactly $1.00 more than the ball. Knowing that, how much did the ball cost?
When presented with this problem, 80% of people will give the same answer: 10 cents. Makes perfect sense. $1.10 is exactly $1.00 more than 10 cents. The answer just “feels” right. There’s no need to explore multiple options.
But consider the problem again. This time spend time analyzing the variables. When you do, you’ll discover that the ball actually cost a nickel (.05 + 1.05 = $1.10).
Why wasn’t this the answer you came up with originally? You had all the information you needed, right?
The answer to that was explained by Nobel laureate Dr. Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University. His studies showed that basically, our brains have two different “thinking systems” we use to solve different problems. The first system (call it “intuition”) operates almost subconsciously. This system is mostly reactive. We use it to draw conclusions quickly, without much thought. It is primarily driven by emotion. It helps you solve problems in a “shoot from the hip” kind way.
It is the system that helps you decide if you have enough time to get across the street before that approaching moving van splatters you all over the sidewalk.
The second system (call it “reasoning”) is much more analytical. As Kahneman describes it, it’s conscious, deliberate, slow-moving, and evaluates a variety of solutions to a given problem. It’s the system that helps us choose between mortgage options when faced with varying loan fees, APRs, payment terms and closing costs.
The rub, as Kahneman points out, is that the “intuition system” is our default system, and unless we’re confronted with information that indicates “we’ll have to think harder,” we stick with it.
As marketers, that’s hard to accept. We prefer to think our customers operate on cold, hard facts, not on knee-jerk whims. The fact is, however, unless we’re selling something that telegraphs the fact that “this is going to require some thoughtful analysis,” we’re confronting reactive customers more interested in how something “feels” than the facts we’re hoping they rely on.
This helps explain why humorous spots generally work so well..
The unfortunate thing to know as marketers, is that once our “intuition system” draws a conclusion, it’s almost impossible to reverse, regardless of the facts. To demonstrate this, take a look at the following two parallel lines, and determine which one is longer.
The truth is they are both the same length. But, like the ball/bat example, an overwhelming majority of folks will pick the top one because it “looks” longer. Amazingly, even when it was demonstrated the two lines were the same length by using a ruler, a surprising number still didn’t believe it was true. “My eyes don’t lie,” was a typical response, ignoring the fact that empirical proof existed they were equal in length.
So what’s a marketer to do? Make sure your first interaction with a customer (whether through advertising, online or in a brick-and-mortar setting) elicits an emotional response that’s in keeping with your “brand personality” in the first few seconds. Think of broad emotions. Humor, shock, surprise, irony, fear (of what they’re missing out on if they don’t choose you).
And whatever you do, it’s probably best if you not challenge them to think very hard.
Posted by Mickey
Chances are, unless you live in a cave (or your mom’s basement without Internet), you’ve been inundated with news reports, pictures and tweets about the five-day mishap of the Carnival cruise ship Triumph, which was left dead in the water in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to an engine fire which not only crippled the ship, but knocked out all the systems that serve the 3,000 passenger ship.
Thanks to social media and wall-to-wall coverage by CNN, seemingly no one has failed to hear about the “cruise from hell,” complete with tails of raw sewage running down cabin walls, no air conditioning, rotting food. and passengers pooping in plastic bags.
The visuals of the crippled ship limping back to port with the assistance of tiny tug boats painted a picture not only of helpless passengers and crew, but also of an inept and aloof cruise company. And perhaps of an industry that’s on the precipice of hard times.
While Carnival conducted the expected “crisis management” real-time public relations, in my view, it didn’t help itself at all in the eyes of the media and general public. While its spokespeople were readily available with management-approved blurbs, the cruise line came off as not trying to make the conditions on the ship any better. No airlifts of food and supplies. No drop of a mechanical crew onto the ship to attempt to revive its power plant. No airlifting the most vulnerable passengers to safety. Even if such efforts resulted in only minor improvements, at least it would show Carnival was doing something.
Instead, Carnival is offering every passenger $500, a flight home, a full refund on their booking on the Triumph, a credit for a future cruise and reimbursement for most of their onboard purchases. The company has also secured hotel rooms in Mobile for family members of people stranded on the ship.
As Matt Foley (as played by the great Chris Farley) would say, “Whoopty-freakin’-do.”
Between the news footage and the tweets, texts and photos sent by passengers as they got within cell range, the media, families and friends saw first-hand what happens when a cruise ship goes all third world.
“You have 3,100 people on that ship telling their family and friends they’re never going on a cruise again, you have tweets and photos coming out now, and you have a freakin’ CNN helicopter overhead. You think that’s not going to resonate?” wrote travel author Jason Clampet on his travel website skift.com.
This episode, combined with the grounding of Costa Cruises’ Italian cruise ship a few years back, has made cruising seem less like “Love Boat” and more like “The Poseidon Adventure.” (Interestingly, Costa is owned by Carnival.) Care-free cruise? Looks more like a floating tent city to me. Suddenly, a week in Vegas or Hawaii seems way more appealing.
What can the industry do to rebound from this episode? It’s going to be a long, steep climb, for sure. The first thing I would do as a cruise line would set out to show “We’re no Carnival.” This would mean doing more than showing folks in bikinis surfing on deck or eating a lobster the size of your head. What potential cruisers need at this moment is reassurance. Speak transparently of what your cruise line does in the way of safety, training and track record. Let your most passionate customers tell their own stories in their own voices. Even folks who start out “I was a little anxious at first, but then…” Real people can relate to this.
In these days of social media and “citizen journalism,” it’s not enough for an organization to SAY the right things. It needs to DO the right things. And Carnival appeared to do little more than sit on their hands during this unfortunate episode.
Posted by Mickey