Ruling the waves
Campaign: Three superior ships
Client: Royal Caribbean
Agency: Hulsbosch Communication By Design
Royal Caribbean is one of the world’s largest cruise ship operators. The US company, based in Miami, Florida, has 42 cruise ships in service worldwide under five different brands and accounts for 25 percent of the total world cruise market.
The brand is well-established in Europe and the US, but relatively unknown in the Australian market. The international cruise industry is the fastest growing travel sector in the world. In 2007, Royal Caribbean entered the crowded Australian market, which was dominated by some well-established brands.
It began operating in Australia with the French-built 2000-passenger ship Rhapsody of the Seas. The ship spends the northern summer in Alaska and then repositions to the southern hemisphere for summer in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
In March 2010, Royal Caribbean added two new ships: Radiance of the Seas and Celebrity Century would join Rhapsody of the Seas for the southern hemisphere summer in 2011/12.
Radiance of the Seas can accommodate 2100 passengers and features state-of-the-art technology and amenities like a nine-hole golf course. She is also the first ship built in the 21st century to be based in Australia.
As the newcomer, Royal Caribbean needed to rapidly establish its name recognition among customers and the travel trade, while at the same time differentiate its service offering among its target audience.
“All of these ships are very modern compared to other options in this market. The campaign had to clearly communicate that our ships are a superior alternative – without diluting our brand values and the quality of the product on offer,” says Adam Armstrong, commercial manager of Royal Caribbean (Australia) Pty Ltd. “We engaged Hulsbosch Communication By Design to help us bring the Royal Caribbean brand into the important and fast growing market of Australia.
“Working with Hulsbosch is as much about the business partnership as it is about the personal relationship. For us, it is about the unique way they approach their work with their clients.
“We share similar values in our approach to business and solving problems. It was the values we share with Hulsbosch combined with their singular focus on developing brand consistency, brand integrity and brand architecture that has helped contribute to the success of the work.”
Hulsbosch Communication By Design is not a traditional advertising agency, yet has demonstrated it is more than capable of serving the brand and advertising needs of some of the biggest public and private companies in Australia.
The award-winning agency, founded by Hans Hulsbosch, has helped some of Australia’s most successful and respected businesses, such as Woolworths and Qantas, strengthen and evolve their brands into national icons over the past decade.
Many people who buy a cruise holiday do so several months in advance. Royal Caribbean knew it had to make a lasting impression and generate sales quickly.
It had to establish its brand name, gain market share from the established competition and highlight its unique level of service and new modern fleet of luxury cruise ships immediately.
To achieve these multiple marketing challenges and ensure its fleet of ships sailed at full capacity around the Pacific and Australia, the international cruise giant opened a new office in Australia and turned to Sydney-based branding, strategy and design agency Hulsbosch Communication By Design in 2009.
Hulsbosch general manager Angela Baglin and her team worked closely with Royal Caribbean to develop a creative strategy that would support the brand’s ambitious Australian growth strategy.
“We saw they needed a strong branding and advertising campaign to quickly and accurately communicate their key differences and set the brand apart from its established competition among its target market,” says Baglin. “Royal Caribbean has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their new fleet of modern superliners to take passengers around the southern oceans in comfort, safety and style. The crucial sales period for the cruise business in Australia begins in October and runs through until April. We had to move quickly to have the new work ready for this period.
“A key focus during these months is January, and ‘early bird’ offers and discounts are essential elements to ensure the ships don’t leave port empty the following season. January is traditionally a key selling period for the cruise market, each brand pushing its sale offers. It’s a cluttered market, so it was imperative the Royal Caribbean offering was strong and that it stood out from the crowd,” adds Baglin.
She also notes that the Hulsbosch team had to work out a way to combine the family of brands under Royal Caribbean, given the equity the company has built in the international market and the fact that its sister brand, Celebrity Cruises, is a relatively unknown entity in Australia.
The work needed a strong sales focus, combined with an attractive ‘early bird’ booking offer. The other key element of the brief was to clearly communicate the fact that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have three modern ships.
The result was a brand and advertising campaign anchored in the theme of ‘three superior ships’, which, since its debut in January 2011, has delivered immediate business results in Australia and New Zealand.
The creative team developed a number of key branding devices that would run through all the marketing material. This campaign used the ‘waiter’ device that speaks of Royal Caribbean’s superior service and embodies the benefits of a cruise holiday.
The creative developed and used is a direct result of the team at Hulsbosch spending several months getting to know every detail about Royal Caribbean’s business, ships, staff and customers.
The team at Hulsbosch undertook extensive and detailed research into the cruise market, what motivated customers, what they expected and what they looked for.
Founder, creative and managing director of Hulsbosch Communication By Design, Hans Hulsbosch, says, “We call it getting inside a company’s DNA. It is something unique and all of us at Hulsbosch pride ourselves on being able to do this with efficiency, passion and great professionalism. This process requires a lot of trust and a good robust working relationship on both sides. We go much deeper into the details of a client’s business than any traditional advertising agency ever would or could. We think the resulting creative promotes the brand as the world’s largest cruise line now sailing from Sydney.”
“It reinforces its superior credentials against local market leaders,” adds Baglin. “The work also features bold headlines citing Royal Caribbean’s new fleet of young luxury ships.”
Royal Caribbean’s Adam Armstrong says, “I really don’t think our business could ever share the level of strategic long-term information about our enterprise and our valued customers with just any external provider. We both have a deep level of respect and trust, and our shared values were fundamental to us working together.”
The campaign launched in January 2011 and ran in local and national newspapers. It was supported by travel agent collateral, passenger communications and online for three months.
The print campaign was supported with single branded flyers distributed to travel agents detailing the early bird booking offers and information was sent to all past passengers and prospective passengers detailing the early bird booking offer.
The campaign continues to run in national newspapers and online, demonstrating how old and new media can work well together.
The ‘three superior ships’ campaign created by Hulsbosch positioned Royal Caribbean as the world’s largest cruise line in an established market. The campaign focuses on the superiority of Royal Caribbean’s Australian fleet and introduces Radiance of the Seas and Celebrity Century, which join sister ship Rhapsody of the Seas in October 2011.
The work has helped deliver growth that is the envy of other cruise line operators. Bookings for the first quarter of calendar year 2011 were up 63 percent over the same period last year and Royal Caribbean reported its seven biggest booking weeks in its Australian history throughout January and February 2011.
Although the focus was on generating new business for the Australian market, the campaign has had a positive knock-on effect on other ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, including the world’s largest cruise ships – Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas – in the Caribbean. Plus its sister brand, Celebrity Cruises, is reporting stronger booking numbers since the debut of the campaign online and among the travel trade media.
In 2011, first quarter booking momentum across all ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet increased by 50 percent, compared to the same period the previous year.
Hans Hulsbosch, says, “We are delighted our campaign for Royal Caribbean has been a major success, despite the difficult economic conditions, which have swept the world over the last three years.
“We believe our brand and advertising campaign directly tapped into the minds of many people in Australia seeking a good value, high-quality escape from their worries at home, while also seeking the need to ‘feel special’ on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship holiday.”