|The Luxe Vacation: Celebrity Cruises|
We caught up with Celebrity Cruises Vice President of Marketing, Lisa Kauffman for a discussion of timely topics on travel marketing with a luxury twist.
Rational and emotional factors guide travel decisions
Kauffman describes travel decisions as guided by rational: people think about where they want to go, which is the entry point to cruise planning, and emotional: "simultaneously, what emotional benefits I will receive when I take my vacation, which is a big driver of the type of vacation they'll purchase." According to Kauffman, the emotional benefits people consider in the vacation space (don't think of just cruising) are:
1) an escape from day to day responsibilities, 2) feeling relaxed and restored, 3) doing what they feel like, and 4) knowing everyone in the travel party will be happy.
She states that the decision drivers for cruisers include "hassle-free" and ease of a cruise, the fact it's easy to see lots of great places, have great food and accommodations, and have a great value. "There are some people who can't get their mind wrapped around a cruise, so she finds that "vacationers are either open to it (cruising) or not."
"Modern luxury" differentiates this brand
The cruise line competitive set is the broader vacation space. Kauffman believes that Celebrity Cruises provides "an unmatchable escape from other land or sea vacation options." She describes the brand strategy as "modern luxury." "In the cruise space, there is not another cruise brand that delivers on the concept of modern luxury: modernity of ship design, the way service is delivered, quality of food, food choices and restaurant ambiance." Hence, she declares this brand positioning of modern luxury to be "very differentiating."
Celebrity conducted extensive ad testing before bringing a new positioning and campaign into the market, and "modern luxury" had the strongest correlation for driving preference and consideration for the brand. Since running this ad campaign online, their click-throughs, recall rates and positivity about the brand in consumer print are finding a better response than some previously successful campaigns. The collateral and advertising features the words and images that tell this story with their beautiful ships and destinations.
Celebrity attracts luxury shoppers
Affording a vacation requires a certain level of affluence with a household income that makes vacations affordable and the position in life where vacation time is possible. In the case of Celebrity's modern luxury, "it resonates with consumers that have chosen other types of luxury in their lifestyle, such as staying at more contemporary luxe hotels and iPad users," Kauffman explains. They attract people who are interested in "updated takes on luxury experiences." She describes their vacation consumers as having a mindset that is "young at heart" and interested to try and explore new things. Celebrity's target consumers profile is based on- psychographics, including confidence, optimism, and a propensity to be an adapter of technology, i.e. devices, smart phones, social media.
Vacationers are online
"About 79% of people are planning travel online, so online media is huge," said Kauffman. "At the same time consumer magazines are relevant, because our target customer still subscribes to magazines for their hobbies and passions: especially travel and culinary."
No major changes in marketing and PR strategy in this economy
It turns out that even in some of the most challenging economic times, people take their vacations. Celebrity's research confirmed that consumers still prioritize taking a vacation regardless of how they feel about their financial situation. "People will continue to protect their vacation time and budget," she explains.
Coincidentally, Celebrity re-launched their Captain's Club loyalty program in 2009. Kauffman calls it the "perfect thing to do," as it created an opportunity to reconnect more strongly with "guests who know and love us." She observes the marketing principal that retention is easier than acquiring new customers and finds the combination of direct marketing and other loyalty programs to be particularly effective.
They launched the modern luxury brand positioning this year and found it to be very well received. The company introduced its first Solstice Class ship in 2008, which embodies modern luxury, and have since packaged this branding in their marketing. According to Kauffman, all product delivery and marketing have been integrated and focused since the branding launch, and it is working out very well.