Cruise Lines are Emerging as Loyalty-Building Event Channels - Event Marketer

Cruise Lines are Emerging as Loyalty-Building Event Channels

Photo and video activation grows more fun for attendees and more flexible for marketers

The ways to get involved are as diverse as the destinations themselves. Affluent adventurers can try out Pentax cameras among the glaciers in Alaska. American Express cardholders can get exclusive tickets to a food and wine cruise that sails from New York Harbor. Retirees can see the Caribbean while fulfilling a lifelong dream to learn the piano on Yamaha keyboards.

Pentax AmEx and Yamaha are a few of the brands that are building clever and intimate brand experiences on board cruise ships. The audience is captive (literally) the mindset meter is tuned to “vacation” and the playful environment is designed to rival the best fairs and festivals on dry land. But up until now only a handful of companies have jumped on board.

“Brands don’t usually approach us ” says Mimi Weisband vp-public relations for Crystal Cruises. “But if somebody has an idea for marrying the two in a way that adds value to our respective audiences then we certainly want to look at what we can do.”

EM reports on the burgeoning world of face-to-face cruise ship marketing.

Passion Play
For active vacationers who would rather whale watch from the deck than gamble in the ship’s casino Cruise West’s fleet of nine small ships offer a variety of up close and personal experiences with nature wildlife and local cultures in off-the-beaten-path locales. Beginning in 2008 guests will be able to bone up on their photography skills as part of a new partnership between the cruise line and Pentax. On six cruises a Pentax photography expert will run workshops and field events on the ship. (Pentax supplies the cameras and experts.) Guests enjoy free hands-on technical training with Pentax cameras and a wide variety of lenses in a setting that couldn’t be more ideal for photography lessons. Pentax calls its target audience pragmatic explorers active but deliberate buyers with a passion for travel and who may be revisiting a love of photography only now with the luxury of more disposable income—a perfect overlay with the Cruise West customer. The program is a grassroots follow-up to the 2007 Test Drive a Pentax program which awarded consumers who visited retailers for hands-on Pentax demos with the chance to win a Toyota FJ Cruiser.

“Our experience has been that when someone picks up a Pentax camera they’re far more likely to buy it ” says Ned Bunnell vp-marketing for Pentax. “What better way to get Pentax cameras into people’s hands than on a week-long cruise to an exotic location?”

Love of Learning
Luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises offers themed cruises ranging from ballroom dancing to book clubs but it was its Creative Learning Institute that presented a unique marketing opportunity for Yamaha pianos. Four years ago Crystal purchased 20 electronic keyboards for one of its ships then invited a Yamaha piano teacher to come aboard and teach cruisers how to play. The program was an instant hit and today there is a full-time Yamaha instructor on every voyage. Crystal upgrades the equipment and curriculum and pays room and board for the teacher. Yamaha gets the chance to show off its portable digital product line to an audience that’s anxious to learn.

“A lot of times they’re people who are retired and have always wanted to play the piano so we show them using new technologies how easy it is as an adult to learn ” says Michael Bates director-institutional and commercial services at Yamaha.

Yamaha hopes to expand the reach of the program so vacationers can continue lessons with Yamaha cruise instructors in their hometowns after the cruise.
 
Maiden Voyage
Norwegian Cruise Line in December will offer two one-night cruises exclusively for American Express cardmembers. It’s the first loyalty event AmEx has hosted on a cruise ship. The newest ship in the fleet Norwegian Gem will serve as the venue for an event that includes a private concert by Grammy winner John Legend and tasting menus inspired by top chefs including Bobby Flay. Cardmembers book rooms (prices start at $499) then get access to all on-board amenities including the ship’s 10 restaurants 11 bars comedy club dance clubs spa and bowling alley.

“The overall theme is giving the card members an experience that they’re not going to get anywhere else brought to you by AmEx ” says Vinny Campana vp-travel at American Express Merchant Services. “For those who carry AmEx they’re getting access to an event that no one else can. For those who don’t I would imagine people would inquire ‘How can I get an American Express card?’”  

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