So I follow Carnival, no big secret. It’s something I enjoy, cruising; and fun to watch a brand I like do some things right (and wrong) in the webosphere of PR, social media-ness.
Us. Them. The Silent Minority?
This week’s news is the forthcoming change to Carnival’s smoking policy. To sum up: Balcony cabins are going non-smoking. If guests smoke, they’ll pay a cleaning fee and risk being asked to leave, per violation of the microscopic legal gobbledygook in the contract.
- Yay! Plenty of people would prefer ocean breeze to second hand Marlboro when they enjoy their balcony cabins, so they’re happy.
- Boo! Hiss! Plenty of people seem upset, ranging from “I’ll still cruise but shame on you” to “NEVER. AGAIN. $*^@*&(# Carnival!“
- Smart Feedback. And questionable advice.
- Speak with your wallet. Cancel bookings. Switch to other cruise lines.
- These excellent suggestions have been appreciated by almost all, with various “Amen!” or “Good Riddance!” comments.
- Define “majority.” More than a few ‘loud minority’ suggestions that it’s only a few who so strongly dislike the smoke that they avoid the cabins, casinos or cruise line all together.
- Other smart commenters know it’s all about the money: If the ‘majority’ really wants that, do it. Then see how it impacts alcohol sales and gaming revenues, not to mention duty-free cigarettes profits.
- Run the risk. Can’t say this ‘live dangerously’ attitude is wise, risking the cleaning fee or being kicked off the ship.
- Make one side balconies smoking. They charge by location anyway, only catch is how to price and arrange the non-smokers around the smokers. It makes some sense but then, that’s gonna require selecting a smoking or non cabin at booking, more work for the hotel operations.
- Manage Your Expectations. They really can’t please everyone, so stop asking.
- Why not a booze free ship, for people who don’t like loud drunks? If that was me, my bad.
- Why not a kid free ship, for people who’d prefer an adult getaway? I did that in April, sailing when almost every kid on the planet was in school. An adult-only pool .. that’s spot-on.
- Why not a rain free vacation, for people allergic to common sense on how weather works? Even the Disney bubble breaks sometimes.
- Speak with your wallet. Cancel bookings. Switch to other cruise lines.
Their ‘unofficial’ social guy John Heald doth attest that TPTB really do take heed of feedback. Doing his best, he’s engaged about as much as he can on this issue. Alas the official engagement from Carnival has been limited, and what I’ve read has that icky ‘copy and paste’ vibe to it.
Data mining social media.
One of the biggest mistakes any company – global brand or small business – can make: ignoring what others are saying about them online.
Comments and feedback can offer great insight, let a brand know what’s working and what’s not, provide suggestions for improvement. Even more so as I’ve shown here, they can answer the most important questions, those qualitative X factors you can’t automate: WHY. WIIFM.
WIIFM to stick with one brand over the other? WHY do people upgrade to balcony cabins? Reviewing the comments (possibly reflecting a noisy minority), one big reason: to smoke. If that’s the case, it’s a major revenue stream and hate to say it, the half/half ship idea isn’t a bad one.
My take: social, ‘crisis’ or marketing-proof. I hate that I keep coming back to that but – there it is. When people start comparing other cruise lines, other inclusive vacation alternatives my bet it is that many will be back and in the end, Carnival will gain more than it loses.
Your take: How do you announce a big change? What’s the best way to sell an idea that’s sure to be unpopular with some of your most loyal customers? At what point do you bow out gracefully, let the discussion die?
Photo credit: the smart folks at Despair totally get it.
This is one of those ‘big picture’ situations that is all about business and really, broad stroke public relations. For those outside the metro Atlanta area or the world of MLB, let me let some headlines do the talking.
Introducing Your Marietta Braves
Braves plan to build new stadium in Cobb. Come 2017 the Atlanta Braves will leave the 20-year young Turner Field for a new, smaller stadium outside the city in a blah blah marketing retail entertainment venue blah. For better or worse: it was a case of money, concessions, debates with the City of Atlanta, traffic and transportation, noise about downtown Atlanta, catering to the fans and a thousand other factors.
Without delving too deeply into the politics, I don’t care for the move. Neither does former owner Ted Turner.
By the by, I live not too far from the proposed area; the traffic is already nigh unto the 3rd circle of hell. A couple of new off-ramps to already overcrowded interstates won’t cut it. I still have not read anything that details the giganormous undertaking it will be to improve roads, parking, much less provide adequate mass transportation to the new facility. (If I’m wrong and plans do exist, please correct me.)
By the by, I have not talked with any fans happy with the move. Not one. Even though it’s closer to home – for some – they’re not interested in what they expect to be a traffic and logistic nightmare, an area of overpriced retail and so-so entertainment.
- The city of the Braves: it’s gotta be about the money. See also, Cobb County showing them the money so they can see some money for their hotels and restaurants.
- The city of Atlanta: not welcome, not wanted. Lots of stories, proposals and blather; ending in the Ted will be leveled in 2017.
- The city of Fans: The fans that are supposed to benefit from this move are sprawled across 30+ counties in the metro area; even if most are from the northern ‘burbs, they still have a long haul to get to new Big Corporate Money Park. Then there are those attendees from out of state – the same ones doing the downtown Georgia Aquarium and other city attractions (see below).
I don’t really know what to say.* I hope I’m wrong, but I got five bucks that says after the initial thrall has faded, it’s back to a half-empty stadium. And the new retail area might well become Cobb’s own Underground Atlanta.
It’s not too late?
This last weekend, an historic downtown Atlanta church held its last service. To make way for a new Falcons stadium, partially funded by the City of Atlanta. To sum up: the area north of the middle aged Georgia Dome didn’t quite address the parking and transit issues well enough for their well-attended downtown Atlanta games, so the Falcons are moving south of their current location. Then will level the Dome in 2017.
So. There’s apparently two large areas available: 1) the current area north of the dome – the one the Falcons passed on; and in 2017, 2) the site of the Dome itself, what with its built-in public transit access (the lack of which allegedly a major shortfall of the soon-to-be-rubble Ted). Why can’t the Braves build a new baseball stadium there?!
Tie in the two adjacent sports facilities to the already popular Aquarium, World of Carbonated Yumminess, with the soon to open Civil Rights Museum and College Football Hall of Fame along the Olympic Park corridor. The Braves and Falcons don’t overlap games that often; surely schedules could be coordinated to make the most of the parking facilities, maximize the public transportation system.
More importantly, the Braves would still tap into the Downtown Atlanta visitor market. Years ago, I attended an opening day game that was a sell out – thanks to thousands of fans in town for the Final Four at the Dome.
IDK. I’m biased. I think a city’s identity is tied to its center, its workers, its public spaces. It’s a shame the powers that be didn’t work this out – for the fans its sports teams, fans of this city.
Ok Atlanta, let me hear it. Love the idea of the move? Hate it? Is football really the difference maker, or is there another reason the Falcons are sticking with downtown while the Braves are fleeing to the suburbs?
Photo credit: The incomparable Mike Luckovich, AJC.
Here’s the problem with vacation: my brain goes with me.
Oh to be on a cruise
Once again my vacation of choice this year was a Carnival cruise. Snorkeling, cocktails, sun, sleep, food, fun, reading, napping.. the usual suspects all present and accounted for. Also in attendance, my communications consultant brain always seeing and thinking “oh they could do this, that business should try that.”
Difference makers. First time on a ‘Conquest’ class ship and while bigger may be better, it’s the Fun 2.0 features that really upgrade this cruise experience. I’ve done more cruises without those extra touches than with and all things the same, that’s the cruise that’s worth it. The Value is there; in the extra eateries and entertainment options, and across the board those ships, those crews, the food, the fun.. everything seems stepped up to the next level.
Know Your Customer. This was both hit and miss.
- The miss: many of my favorite experiences were scheduled during my getting ready for/eating dinner time. I know the cruise director was working around having only two sea days and yet, I can’t help but think – and wasn’t the only one to notice – that many of the popular activities were geared towards for the early seating. Balance for everyone, please.
- The hit: the redesigned, ‘upgraded’ dinner menus. Upgrade in quotes because in a brilliant stroke of branding and design smarts, Carnival fooled a lot of repeat guests into thinking it’s a ‘new’ menu. While some selections were new and truly improved, it’s also a lot of the same – simply repackaged. What was once the kitschy ‘didja’ as in ‘did ya ever want to try…’ is now labeled a ‘rare find,’ the ‘always available’ is the new ‘from the grill’ section, what was the ‘Caribbean’ inspired fare du jour has been dubbed ‘port of call’ to honor the journey. Same food, different labeling, pretty typesetting .. and voila everyone’s impressed.
- Near miss or almost hit. The pasta with the mushroom cream sauce doesn’t hold a candle to Maggiano’s Rigatoni D. Ergo changing a logo won’t fix the brand, a pretty menu with flowery marketing descriptions doesn’t improve the food. I’ve always thought Carnival made a mistake by cooking down to its guests; the ‘new’ menus aren’t a perfect fix but certainly another step – in line with the very good Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy Fieri’s burgers – in the right direction.
Keep it Simple. Much like when you go to Disney World, you’re not going for themes and rides – you’re there for the experience. People pay very good money for those family trips, those shared moments and memories.
Same with cruising; it’s a no worries, little bit of everything for everyone kind of vacation. To that end, I loved the cruise-ship owned ‘private’ island; it’s a nice lazy beach day, where they do all the work and planning for you and it’s included without an excursion expense.
Service + Value = The Trick. The Liberty crew did a great job but always room for improvement. Been in food service enough to know it’s hard to serve that many people and yet, with all their practice, you’d think I’d get better than lukewarm pancakes.
Then there are the various daily specials the spa runs. So while marketing gets the win, PR takes the loss as the nice woman I met who paid more than $100 bucks for her facial kinda felt she got hosed when they broadcast the $39 deal over the intercom. And a cheapskate like myself learns to never pay full price, wait for the promo sale and get that ‘value.’
Lagniappe. AKA random thoughts.
- Many ports and places kinda marketing proof; Grand Turk is such a small island, there’s little competition on beach clubs or diving operators — you pretty much have to take what you can get.
- That said, I repeated the exact excursion – a sail and turtle snorkel – I’d done a few years ago in St. Thomas, I thought so much of the service, experience and value.
- Comedians make brilliant sociologists, anthropologists. They relate to people – the why of what makes us tick – so they can tell jokes we’ll get. Dan Gabriel - “Going on Facebook is the life equivalent of looking in the fridge when you’re not hungry.” (Tweet This.) So spot-on I wrote it down. Makes me think PR turned comedian Shane Rhyne has a real chance.
Ok folks – books, gossip rags, a few too many drinks at the bar – how does one turn their brain off and just be away? Tell me your secret. P.S. Love it when a monster long blog post writes itself!
Photo Credit: No silly meme this time, just lovely blue water taken by yours truly. Because I’m mean like that.
This blog is my home base, the hub of the social empire of made up of me, my Mickey Mouse pen holder and those of rare few of exceptional taste (i.e. you).
Truth be typed I spend much more of my time elsewhere on the Interwebs: on various social networks, on news and media sites, on your blogs. I watch, I read, I comment, I share.
Unless you’re stalking my every move – let me save you some time, don’t; I’m really boring – there’s no way to catch it all. In that spirit, every few weeks I’ll recap what I think readers may enjoy and what I consider worth a second look.
In Case You Missed It:
— Davina Brewer @3hats (@3HatsComm) March 25, 2014
Suing customers for posting accurate, unfavorable reviews is a thing now as vendors and service providers are banning (negative) reviews in their contracts. Thoughts:
- Some companies live or die by reviews, that’s business. Have a good product, offer good services and people will say so via likes, stars, comments, testimonials.
- Businesses need to take ownership of their brand, manage their online reputation, respond to the bad and do what it takes to fix the problems (not just the reviews).
- Manage expectations. It’s a ridiculous standard to expect a business to have nothing but glowing raves; ‘perfection’ at half price isn’t the only measure of a job well done. There are those times that.. the customer isn’t always right; they tend to misplace their blame and negate their own.
I understand a business’s need to protect itself. But if a provider isn’t willing to stand behind their service to the point they’ll sue me for posting an honest, negative review they won’t win my trust nor earn my business.
As I indicated on Google+, this WILL be blogged in detail here at some point. Many others were right on Copyblogger’s move to close comments, so for now let me direct you to their posts that, as fate would have it, have some pretty smart comments (and also, mine):
Gini Dietrich explains why she won’t close blog comments, and I was like yeah, ‘comments are work.’ Next I had to buy Mark Schaefer a Coke, as he was spot-on with the economics behind ending blog comments. Marcus Sheridan said Good for Copyblogger, their blog, their rules, their choice. To which I said sure – and by the same logic, so too everyone complaining about the move; their comments, their opinions, their choice.
Everyone is free to do what works best for them in this ever-changing social experiment. Some sites, comments don’t make sense. For my style of blogging, they do.
Generic Brand Video.
It’s a pretty sharp commentary on business communications, on PR – and a clever piece of marketing content for themselves.
Watching the news or TV golf, I promise you’ll never look at those ads – about absolutely nothing – the same way.
Many of us have content that’s elsewhere. What’s a better, easier way to curate that, to repurpose it into something new? Do share.
The other day I was opining about Olive Garden’s twee new logo as part of its “time will tell how much money was wasted on a new menu, new concept” rebrand campaign. It was on Google+ so, I’m sure you didn’t see it. Budumptssh. (Sorry, cheap shot.)
Brands update their logos all the time. Sometimes people notice, complain so much that The Gap logo reverts back. More often than not it’s only us business communications types, Monday morning quarterbacking what we’d have done differently.
(FWIW As a designer and communications consultant not sure I would have changed the font, that was almost iconic. The ‘kitchen’ label seems a misnomer considering each location is designed to serve the exact same food the exact same way. The generic clip art scroll vine? Meh.)
The problem is – as always – a brand thinking about the how the rebrand helps the brand brand its brand.
Sell, sell, sell! Visions of stocks and market share and “omg, what does Wall Street think?!” dance in TPTB heads. Because a logo makeover is all it takes to make customers open their wallets for the same crap you’ve been selling all along. See also: why I have not set foot in a J.C. Penney in years.
Do More, Be More, Make More Money
A “where am I?” riddle: I’m buying a gourmet toffee latte. A fresh sandwich. And another losing lottery ticket. I had free WiFi. Am I at a new corner market or fancy new coffee shop? Nope. Hint: I also got gas.
Here in Atlanta we have choices: where to shop, where to spend our grocery dollars, where to dine. Where to get a hit of the last socially acceptable wonder drug known as caffeine. And gas.
Have you been to a new RaceTrac or QuikTrip lately? Wow. Clean. Organized. Convenient.
- Room of cold beer. Check.
- Counters for coffee, pastries, sandwiches, snacks, any soda you could want. Check.
- Build your own yogurt bar, with a temptingly evil toppings station and rewards card for those of us sans willpower. Check.
They didn’t decide to build the same old gas station like everyone else and try to sell the same old crap. They asked: “how do we keep people coming back?” They reimagined – yeah, in the best buzziest sense – what the convenience store experience should be. For. The. Customer. Offer a good product, back it with good service, be more of what your customers want; that’s smart branding, that’s good PR.
What so many, too many companies get wrong is this: the wrapping on the package may be pretty, but it’s what’s inside that counts.
Tell me: does a new logo, a big label rebrand influence you at all? Is it a wasted effort or does a rebrand move you to take another look?
Photo credit: too many memes out there, with many a search bringing up The Gap.