Thursday, January 21

Royal Caribbean and Haiti

A reporter from AdAge called me the other day to comment on a story he's writing about Royal Caribbean and Haiti. You've probably read about the controversy. Haiti is one of the stops on the cruise itinerary, and passengers get off the boat to enjoy a beautifully luxurious beach.Despite the earthquake, the cruise ship is still stopping at this beach which is roughly 60 miles from Port-au-Prince.

The debate is a tough one. Continue to support the local economy, certainly one way to aid the struggling country. The folks there need the work, just as much now as ever. Or send your passengers somewhere else and offer hard-core support to the disaster, like turning the boat into a floating hospital or temporary housing.

To be honest, at first I wasn't sure how to respond.

The marketer in me says that you have to satisfy consumer needs. The passengers still wanted to go, and the company was justifying it by supporting the local economy and giving Haiti residents jobs. Got it, rationally makes sense. But the other side of me says that you have to take the higher ground.

You can read part of what I said here:

As a brand contributing to the global economy, you have to look at the bigger picture. People are suffering in a part of the world that you engage in, you are a part of that community. Royal Caribbean is a HUGE part of the economy in that part of the world. In this case, a brand has to make tough decisions about how to be a part of the community and still satisfy its consumers and all of its constituents.

I don't know the economics or capabilities of the brand, but if it were me I would offer those passengers an alternative to that Haiti beach that still satisfies their needs, while doing whatever I can to help the community to which I am a part of. Offer relief to those employed by Royal Caribbean and get into the rescue action with some meaningful, high impact help.

There are lots of ways to support the local economy and lots of ways to lend relief. Marketing is all about making choices, and people's perceptions of brands are heavily influenced by the choices made. I would have probably advised a different series of choices.

What's your experience? Jim.

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