Carnival Corp., which operates nine cruise lines worldwide, plans to launch an online social media campaign next week which it says is aimed at people who are new to cruising.
The plans include a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #LoveCruising and an online ad contest on its new website.
The cruise line shook up its management in 2013 after several high-profile incidents, the biggest of which were the Costa Concordia disaster in which 32 people died and the stranding of the Carnival Triumph at sea after an engine fire. Many of the headlines for the latter incident read “Poop Cruise.”
Just last week, Carnival suffered more bad headlines with news of 172 passengers sickened with the norovirus on one of its ships.
In the aftermath of the Concordia and Triumph disasters, Carnival said it expected its image recovery to take two to three years. But Ken Jones, VP of Corporate Marketing for Carnival Corp., insisted that this latest online campaign is not intended to fight negative headlines.
“This campaign is not designed to combat any particular press that’s happened in the past. This campaign is designed to speak for the fact that, for the first time ever, as a corporation, we’re talking about all nine of our brands simultaneously,” said Jones.
The campaign’s efforts are to introduce new customers to its various lines which cater to differing types of customers, Jones said. To that end, the company’s new online website will include a “Cruise-a-nality” interactive tool.
Mitch Joel, president of the digital marketing firm Twist Image, said Carnival’s plans, specifically in terms of the Twitter hashtag, are “not only risky, but I don’t even understand why they would even engage in this.”
Joel said companies that run online campaigns need to know the answers to some crucial questions ahead of time. “Do people really, really care and really want to help us? Or are they going to turn this into a parody and a joke, and make matters a whole lot worse for us,” Joel said.
“There are times that you can do it, if there is strong brand affinity,” said Don Stanley, an online marketing consultant and professor at the University of Wisconsin.
“The biggest mistake I see companies make is they think through the potential benefits of a campaign, but they don’t plan for potential problems,” said Stanley.
Carnival’s Jones said they’re confident of their Twitter campaign, although they will “curate” the tweets.
“We’re confident in the cruise public. From what we know they like to speak up about cruising, and we’re excited to hear what we hear,” Jones said.