This is the part four of an ongoing series of articles about the future of branding and brand marketing.
The power of digital media is that it opens up a direct pipeline between you, the brand and… well pretty much the entire world. If you’ve built your destination correctly as described in the previous three chapters and have begun thinking about edutainment as the driving model for your content, now it’s time to think about what does that content actually look like? How does edutainment apply to my brand?
How about we take a cruise to find out? Why cruising? I LOVE to cruise and it amazes me how many of my friends and colleagues won't take set foot on a cruise ship because of misplaced misconceptions and myths.
This turns out to be rather timely topic as the Cruise Lines International Associationsrecently released early numbers that expects a 6% increase in cruise passengers in 2019 over 2018. That’s about 30 million passengers. At the same time, myths and misconceptions are holding back many more potential passengers from trying out a cruise. The CLIA plan to break those myths appear to center on better marketing for travel agents and trade organizations. I gotta be honest, I rarely use a travel agent for anything, we get our information online through sites like Cruise Critic and book direct through the cruise line or a third party travel site.
Now what if original, branded edutainment was created to market directly to a wide variety of potential consumers through varied storytelling that doesn’t rely on travel agents, but doesn’t exclude them either? Let’s see what that might look like.
As an overarching organization to the cruise lines, CLIA has access to every major cruise line and their ships. Their focus would be to create multiple original digital properties that feature the enjoyment and excitement around the cruise experience. Not just typical “Look at this cool ship and this beach you can go to” highlights that you see on EVERY cruise line website and every time a new cruise ship gets launched. Those shows are really preaching to choir, reminding people who have cruised why they want to come back. I mean creating original content developed like actual programming you would see on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon aimed at an audience that would never consider a cruise for their next vacation. Cruise marketing without marketing the cruise.
Let’s start with food. One cool thing about a cruise is that you can sample food from multiple regions and countries in the same trip. The hard part about a cruise is knowing which local place is actually worth paying for when you have limited time in a port to explore. Build an exploratory series around food (picture Ugly Delicious or Andrew Zimmern) whereby the host travels by ship. The host samples the food onboard, meets the chefs and finds interesting local culinary delights at each port along with interesting local folks. Perhaps the head chef from the ship joins the host to explore the birthplace of a meal they serve onboard. Or even an entire series devoted to the background of the cuisine served on the ships with the chefs exploring the globe for the ingredients. Considering there are hundreds of ports globally where cruise ships sail, the potential content and varieties of food for the series are nearly endless. So the series is about culinary adventures where the cruise ship is simply the vehicle to get to the food.
And since we’re talking online, digital distribution, don’t limit this culinary idea to one series aimed at the typical 20 - 35 demographic. Create a series featuring a senior couple. Another series featuring someone who loves the hottest food they can find. Another series featuring wine and spirits. Amazing coffee. “Insert Local Cuisine” culinary adventures! You can see where I’m going with this. The topics, types of hosts and styles of production you can develop are endless. Each and every series promotes cruising, just without the cruise being front and center. Food is the hook.
Next we can look at human interest, behind the scenes and docu-drama. Dirty Jobs was nothing more than Mike Rowe exploring jobs that most of us would never want to do or didn’t know about. It wasn’t the jobs so much that brought in the audience, it was the people we met and the way Mike let us tag along like we were part of the crew. That’s an easy set of series to replicate when you consider the hundreds of on-board and shoreside jobs for any cruise line. Each episode features one or two jobs the host attempts to pull off and then you go one step further by introducing the backstories of the people we meet along the way.
As before, you don't just create one series, develop multiple iterations targeted to specific demographics. Different types of hosts, different ages attempting various type of jobs or behind the scenes exploring. Creating that personal connection with individual crew members fosters engagement and interest in their stories. By its very nature, this series will expose the audience to many different types of ships, many different classes of cruising (luxury, casual, cheap) and the different vibes from one cruise line to another. The jobs and the people we meet are the hook, the cruise ship is the backdrop to the jobs.
For behind the scenes that includes docu-drama, multi-part series on any positions that require auditions, tryouts, rehearsals and things of that nature. Launching a new production show involves cast, choreography, lyrics, music, lighting, staging and so many thing that can go wrong. That’s an 8 part series right there and the series is repeatable for dozens of production shows across the cruise lines. The audition process to become a new cast member of any ship is a multi-part series. You could go into food service, bar service and any number of positions limited only to what the cruise lines are willing to film. Interesting people, performing arts and natural drama are the hook. The cruise line is the backdrop.
Let’s move to travel and the destinations. Most cruise lines have what I call the ‘glossy brochure’ video that features a bunch of beauty shots of ‘insert this location here’ that tells you… not very much in about 60 seconds. I would approach the destinations in two ways.
One is the traditional way, like we discussed above with the food, hosts that travel to these destinations and document their experiences. And as before, different shows and styles targeted to different demographics. A focus on history, a focus on outdoor adventure, a focus on beaches and surf, a focus on water and water adventures. Once again, the ship is the vehicle to get where the hosts are going, the adventures of the hosts traveling is the hook.
Another way to approach the destinations is through the eyes of those who live there. Partner with local filmmakers to create unique stories and series about their homelands, the food, the people, the culture and places to explore. All the stories would revolve around places and things people can do while in port. In other words if the standard visit at a destination for cruise lines is 8am to 6pm, the series would not feature any nighttime activities because the cruisers won’t be around for them. Partnering with the local filmmakers gives an inside perspective, places and people that outside production companies wouldn’t know about.
There’s a couple of examples of branded storytelling as I would create them for one industry. By the very nature of always being on or around a ship, you pique the curiosity of those who would never consider getting on a cruise ship. You’re just naturally in the cabin, next to the pools, in the atrium in the restaurants, on the dock, in the theater as part of the show. That leads to “Hmmm, those pools look nice, that cabin and balcony are not what I expected, the food looks amazing, I always wanted to see that festival, those restaurants in that location look great…” until finally you get “you know I never wanted to take a cruise, but I never thought of it like that before.”
This original content would distributed across the usual suspects, YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook Watch, but would also be featured on a lifestyle website or digital channel that CLIA would control. The word ‘cruise’ or ‘cruising’ would not appear in the name of the site so as not to discourage “I will never cruise” people from checking out the programming. Those travel agents from the beginning of the article could also feature the programming of their choice on their websites as could travel blogs and other digital sites. Certain series should be targeted towards the big streaming services mentioned earlier as well.
Now I'm not here to pick on the CLIA or their marketing plans. The timeliness of their articles provided a natural jumping off point for what was always intended to be the background topic of this article, cruising. The edutainment I described in this article never directly sells the cruise or the ships, just experiences that appeal to specific audiences. The branded content provides quality, takeaway information for those audiences which should make them tune in for future episodes. In other words, an audience that would never watch a show about cruising or cruise ships were introduced to cruising through something they connect with and love.
That’s the power of branded storytelling. Thinking beyond "I need to hard sell." Sell your brand, your product, your service, without ever selling. Tell great stories. Share awesome, useful information. Incorporate your brand naturally into the storyline. Build your audience far beyond your traditional demographic.