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Carnival Cruise Line has always been a major gateway for first-time cruisers, and a new “Choose Fun” brand campaign and partnership will likely increase that by several notches.
Carnival has named Shaquille O’Neal, NBA star and Basketball Hall of Famer, as Carnival’s CFO — or “chief fun officer” — to personify the spirit of the company’s new campaign.
“He will serve as a great partner, ensuring everyone knows all about our one-of-a-kind brand of fun,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival.
New marketing videos feature the playful O’Neal, who appears in full business regalia to show off Carnival’s signature features; in one promo, he concludes a tour of Carnival Vista by jumping, fully dressed, into a pool.
Launched last month, the multifaceted campaign was created in partnership with New York-based advertising agency Anomaly to entice first-time cruisers to step onboard, linking consumer choices on land to activities on Carnival ships.
Although Carnival will not reveal how much money it spent on the campaign, its scope is enormous. “Choose Fun” spans digital displays, social media and online videos on platforms such as Amazon Video, Hulu, Roku and Vevo. The new campaign is also airing on television in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta during events like NFL playoff games; it also played during this year’s coverage of the Grammys. In these key regions, fully integrated marketing also includes local radio and out-of-home advertising.
Online targeted marketing will bring up related content for consumers; for example, those who frequent food sites may see Carnival cruisers munching on burgers from Guy’s Burger Joint, the at-sea venue from celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Or, they may see ads for the cruise line’s Punchliner Comedy Club if they visit comedy-themed websites.
The campaign also involves 30-second testimonials with recent non-cruisers who have taken vacations with Carnival, including from 30-something Tracy Stacy, who celebrates her wild side after a ride on the waterslide; a family discussing their change of heart about cruising while underwater; and an Instagram-happy couple who finds photo ops galore.
Kathy Mayor, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Carnival, says this campaign is the line’s main focus during cruising’s wave season period (January through March). Then, “Choose Fun” will focus on Carnival Horizon, which is set to arrive in the U.S. in May.
According to Mayor, the goal is to launch with significant reach through national television spots during the 2018 Winter Olympics, then achieve frequency with personalized display and video ads via national digital platforms.
“We think tying what people love on land — including music, comedy and sports — to what is offered at sea is a powerful way to inspire and educate cruise rookies to try cruising and Carnival,” she said.
Mayor notes that Carnival’s theme of targeting what “fun” means to different consumers is consistent with how travel advisors customize vacations to clients’ preferences.
“We’d be happy to work with agents on how they might leverage the campaign to reinforce this message,” she said.
Scott Koepf, senior vice president of sales for Avoya Travel, says he sees great opportunities for agents in what he calls “a brilliant campaign.”
“The thing I love is that cruise lines have phases of who they are, but Carnival has stuck with ‘fun’ and held onto it from the very beginning,” he said. “Shaq playing ‘duck duck goose ’ around a conference table [in one ad video] really relates to the customer, who wants to break out and do things for pure fun.”
Koepf notes that agents typically find that psychographics — customers’ attitudes and personal tastes — are the most difficult aspect to track when qualifying a client.
“Fun is not even among CRM categories; it’s too subjective and pervasive, so agents don’t have this information in their databases,” he said. “So, Carnival is really giving agents an opportunity.”
Additionally, Koepf points out that because of the timing of the national campaign launch with the Olympics, Carnival is giving agents information about when clients will be spending more money.
“Agents should do all they can during this period to maximize their position,” he said. “Use social media. If you’re a brick-and-mortar, use the window display. Get a couple of mailers to clients while they are watching the Olympics. This is the piece that is missing, the clear next step. A person is excited by the advertising; agents must be proactive about inserting themselves into the process. And this is where specialization comes in – you really have to know the product. You have to be a better choice than the cruise line and other agents.”