Travelers are storytellers, listeners, collectors and curators. They are eager to define themselves as the sum of their experiences, expressed through photos on social media and validated through loyalty programs and personalized content. That’s why today’s top travel brands look to appeal to consumers’ sense of identity, much the same way that fashion brands do.
I recently spoke with Gordon Ho, SVP of global marketing and sales at Princess Cruises, to hear what it takes to reach consumers beyond the transaction, how the human element of travel matters now more than ever, and why the role of customized content cannot be overstated.
Oath: Travel brands are increasingly transforming into “experience platforms” and with this shift, the concept of the consumer lifecycle is changing. What does this mean for brands like Princess Cruises?
Gordon Ho: The typical traveler encounters 20 to 30 touchpoints prior to making a purchase decision. Understanding this customer journey helps us create personalized media experiences that are more relevant for our guests. For example, our CRM data shows that our guests cruise for various reasons, many tied to life stages and events. By heeding these critical signals in media, we know the difference between connecting with a mother celebrating her 50th birthday vs. the professional who wants to get away vs. the couple looking to cross off their bucket list with a trip to Alaska.
We sample our experiences through brand ambassadors from the Holderness family on YouTube to the TV show Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet. Whether it’s a digital influencer or an adventure show, they can trigger new reasons to cruise. In the mid-70s through 80s, the wildly popular television show The Love Boat took place on Princess Cruises and Princess actually pioneered Weddings at Sea. Today, Love Boat star Jill Whelan, who played Vicki Stubing on The Love Boat, is our official Celebrations ambassador as we host more than 200,000 anniversaries a year onboard our ships.
Ultimately, the consumer lifecycle for cruise vacations is always on and we strive to be a part of this consideration before, during and after the cruise.
Brands are moving beyond the transaction to create deeper relationships via loyalty programs, strategic brand integrations and always-on content. What are some ways Princess Cruises connects with customers beyond the conversion?
For Princess, we have many ways of deepening our guest relationship on the ship and off. Onboard, our guests develop a relationship with their fellow passengers and crew, who really get to know each guest personally, helping enable a more personalized, joyful vacation.
Off the ship, we maintain our relationship with ongoing content and experiences. For example, our social channels will deliver videos and photos of new port-of-call and onboard experiences that our guests will take note for their next vacation. We share recipes from our culinary partners Curtis Stone or master chocolatier Norman Love which keeps Princess top-of-mind at meal time. We even connect with our guests every night as many of them have purchased our Princess Luxury Bed which we designed with a board-certified sleep expert; now, every time they sleep, they’re reminded of the relaxation they experienced with Princess.
How do you keep this communication going?
Ultimately, we rely on various media to maintain our guest connection. In print, we create and distribute our Captain’s Circle magazine which highlights the amazing new destinations and programs we’re offering. In social, we encourage guests to share their photos and stories through quizzes and contests. In television, our parent company, Carnival Corporation, developed Ocean Original television shows that air on Saturday morning on network television. These include Vacation Creation and Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin which showcase the joys of cruise vacations.