Hey Millennials: it’s not just a cruise, it’s an experience

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One of the things needed to understand the next generation of cruise guests is the humblebrag.

Another is that when Royal Caribbean’s experts in attracting new business talk about this “next generation,” they’re referring to a consumer segment more commonly called Millennials, born from 1982 to 2004.

The humblebrag – the term is credited to a TV comedy writer and soon added to the “Oxford Dictionary” – is a boast disguised as self-deprecation, as in, “All of the dresses in my closet are too big.”

It is widely agreed that the point of the humblebrag is to look interesting on social media.

“I don’t have it fully formed by any stretch,” RCL Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra says of efforts to go after tides of new business in the Millennial generation, the fastest growing consumer segment in the U.S. “How do you expose elements of the (cruise) experience in a way that connects to this group so the consumer, particularly the maturing Millennial, can have more customization?”

That’s important because this maturing, attention-craving, selfie-taking, and experience-seeking demographic doesn’t want a formulaic, cookie-cutter vacation. It wants what Royal Caribbean can provide, but may not know it yet.

RCL Marketing VP Kara Wallace, whose responsibilities include advertising and social media, says “we want to get cruising on their radar before they develop any preconceived notions about it.”

“There’s an adage in cruising that they’re for the newly wed, the nearly dead, and the over fed. That’s the stigma associated with our category, and that’s precisely the one we want to change to say you can have a cultural experience in the places you go. You can have a very active, enriching vacation, if that’s what you choose. There are like-minded people on board cruises.”

In October 2015, Wallace says, RCL launched an ad campaign dubbed “Come Seek.” It was an invitation aimed directly at the next generation of cruisers – at Millennials – to come have an adventure. As Wallace describes it, the campaign showed that RCL is more than a just any cruiseline and Millennials are more than just any tourists.

“It’s all about taking these kind of things that people have thought cruising has been over the years and confronting them head on, having an honest conversation about them and challenging what people think cruising is,” Wallace continues.

“It’s that authenticity and that honesty to say, ‘We know you might think this, but we’re not that,’ that I think appeals to a Millennial, or a Millennial audience.”

Knowing and describing things that make Millennials different does not mean it’s a story that can be tied up with a “perfect bow,” Berra says. Even if RCL cracks that code, there’s a concurrent imperative:

How does the product and how it’s marketed evolve thoughtfully and effectively while still appealing to Royal cruisers who have come to know the experience and love it?

“I think we’re still in the very early innings of that,” Berra says. “We haven’t figured it out, but it’s one of these paths we have to go down.”