The formula for selling cruises has changed little in the past decade. There is a time-tested belief that the path to getting “heads in beds” is broadcasting (through traditional media) a combination of itineraries, unique amenities and new ships. These talking points were the holy trinity in 2004, when I worked on NCL at GSD&M, and remain the primary proof points in briefs written by Martin Agency planners today.
My involvement on the account has been very limited over the past year. I received news only second hand that our internal team had bowed to (rather than pushed) client expectations in developing a marketing plan for NCL’s latest ship, Breakaway. Billboards on bus shelters, eight placed throughout Manhattan, were the delivery method of choice:
That’s right. Bus shelters. Eight bus shelters.
But tucked away in a deck somewhere was a script that the NCL Creative Director was fond of. He handed it to my partner (a creative technologist) and me and asked if we could perhaps make something larger out of it:
We looked at each other with smirks as if we were just handed proton packs and told to go hunt down Slimer. Over the course of two weeks we partnered with (and pushed) all members of the team – from project management to planning to creative to production – to expand the thinking for Breakaway. Developing a solution-neutral idea rather than mere marketing executions was an uncomfortable process for many on the day-to-day NCL team, but in the end I had them saying the words “liquid content” in unison.
We ultimately presented to the client a marketing plan based on a very simple, human insight: if we can get people to play with ship amenities online they are more likely to book, so why not get those amenities into people’s hands early and often?
The content we envisioned (a series of small games designed to act as little fires all over the web) connect paid, earned and owned media through efficiencies in production and distribution. We’ll leverage the best of behavioral economics and game mechanics to reward participation and sharing without requiring either. And for the first time in this category, we’ll connect down-funnel engagement with up-funnel “awareness driving” forms of communication.
The client’s collective jaws dropped. They bought it all. Soup to nuts, we’re going to overhaul the ways in which NCL markets the cruising trinity. And I’ll be busy for a few months putting this thing together.
A few of the visuals/slides from our presentation can be found here. It gives you and overview of how we created a liquid asset that will be at the core of everything we create: