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Influencing Brand Advocates

In my previous posts, I cited the recent study by Colloquy that found that customers who participate in loyalty-building efforts are 70 percent more likely to actively recommend a product, service, or brand than the general population. I thought you might want to see this strategy in action with the Royal Caribbean Cruises’ efforts. Rachel Hannock, Manager Loyalty Marketing, and Royal Caribbean Cruises shared their story at a recent loyalty marketing conference.

Hannock noted, “The key to success in viral marketing is to subtly influence the influencers without them overtly realizing they are being influenced.”

Royal Caribbean Case Study

Identifying Brand Advocates: Royal Caribbean worked with Nielsen Buzz Metrics to identify enthusiastic online supporters of Royal Caribbean. Using a combination of automated and manual techniques, they identified online communities that discuss Royal Caribbean Cruises. Relying on data mining software and human expertise in word-of-mouth analysis, they measured awareness, identifying emergent qualitative themes of discussion on blogs, travel forums, usernets to gain a better understanding of how consumers discuss Royal Caribbean cruises. Fifty Royal Caribbean Champions were chosen for both quality and quantity of posts, with many having over 10,000 message board posts on various Royal Caribbean topics. While Champions were primarily found on Cruise Critic, they also posted on travel communities, usernet groups, travel blogs and personal journals.

Influencing Brand Advocates: In May 2007, the Royal Champions community of online enthusiasts was invited to their first big event, the pre-inaugural sailings of our newest ship Liberty of the Seas in New York and Miami. This was the first time in the company’s history that invitees to pre-inaugural sailings were “ordinary people,” i.e., not VIPs, corporate executives, or top-producing travel agents. Royal Caribbean hosted ship and stateroom tours and cocktail parties with executives. President Adam Goldstein hosted the New York party, and CEO Richard Fain hosted the Miami party. The events generated abundant positive word-of-mouth on various sites and created a cohesive community of Royal Caribbean online enthusiasts that are regularly leveraged for ongoing marketing initiatives.

Measuring Success: While difficult to measure precisely, based on observation and anecdotal evidence, we are confident that the Royal Champions produce ample word of mouth and exert sufficient influence to make the investment worthwhile. Posts from Royal Champions are carefully monitored during events and regularly to ensure that posts remain positive and frequent.

Sallie Burnett
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