Based on the insight that the biggest cruise ships offer the biggest holiday experiences, Hulsbosch created a fully integrated campaign inviting cruise goers to ‘Live Life Big’ with Royal Caribbean. A visually epic pan-Asia Pacific 90sec brand film launched Royal Caribbean to an audience of billions. The campaign was strongly supported by further TVC executions as well as extensive retail, digital, Point-of-sale, and direct mail components. The rollout of multiple executions across the region required intelligent insights and strong creative leadership to ensure its success.
Gavin Smith, Senior Vice President International
Royal Caribbean International, 2017
TAKING TO THE HIGH SEAS
The jury is still out on who exactly invented pleasure cruising but we do know that in 1932 the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or P&O as it’s commonly known, pioneered cruising from Australia. The new 23,000-ton steamer ‘Strathaird” carried 1,100 passengers on the first cruise to Brisbane and Norfolk Island from Sydney. This sailing was so popular that passage on the ship sold out in just one day. Australians had found themselves a new type of holiday1.
In the aftermath of WWII people yearned for an opportunity to rebuild a new and rewarding life. Between 1945 to 1972 Australia became the destination of choice. It was from the decks of P&O ships, that over one million migrants first glimpsed their new Australian homeland. The onboard experience remained firmly in people’s memory.
Several other shipping lines were plying the migrant route between Europe and Australia, notably Sitmar. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s when a phenomenally successful TV series called “The Love Boat” hit Australian screens and cruise mania, as we know it today, was born2. Since then, cruising as a holiday choice has seen spectacular growth. According to a 2015 Cruise Lines International Association report, Australian cruising has had a record-breaking run, reaching its target of one million local cruise passengers six years ahead of forecast becoming the world’s fastest-growing passenger market3.
Whilst at Clemenger Advertising agency, Hans dipped his toe in the water with Sitmar Cruises and loved working on the account. With his passion for cruising and deep understanding of this brand it was no surprise that Phil Young, then CEO of Sitmar Cruises, considered Hans the right person to take Sitmar into the future.
P&O brochure 1991
Sitmar Cruises press ad 1986
Princess Cruises Magazine Ad 1990
Whilst working across the P&O brands the Hulsbosch team immediately grasped the difference between the Fairstar brand image and the P&O brand. With targeted tactical marketing they quickly managed to upweigh P&O’s brand message and elevate the Fairstar identity4. Australia’s beloved cruise ship retired in 1997 after 40 fun-filled years of service, of which 33 years were spent in Australian waters. However the Pacific Dawn, Pacific Sun and Pacific Sky ships soon filled the void.
In 1997 Hulsbosch created the brand blueprint for the new small luxury P&O Spice Island Cruiseline. They designed the brand identity and developed a strategic map that guided the implementation of the brand’s identity across all of the marketing material and onboard items. In 2003 after the merger between P&O and Carnival Cruises the Hulsbosch team embarked on a complete brand overhaul to relaunch P&O Cruises into the Australian market.
The Hulsbosch team received many awards for their innovative cruise brochures and ground-breaking cruise marketing campaigns, notably the ‘Visit the Neighbours’ campaign, the ‘See Asia by Sea’ campaign and the record breaking ‘Clear the Decks’ campaign. In addition they marketed Princess Cruises, the P&O Corporate Account, the P&O Cruises Direct Marketing account and P&O World Cruises. Several major integrated launches were designed to present new luxury cruise ships into the Australian market and in a first for the cruising industry Lisa Curry-Kenny was appointed as brand ambassador.
Phil Young, Former CEO
Royal Caribbean International - From 2008
When Gavin Smith was tasked with setting up Royal Caribbean International (RCI) cruises in the Australian market in 2008, he did not waste any time contacting Hans Hulsbosch. They had worked closely together when Smith was the CEO of P&O Cruises and he was adamant about entering a new partnership with Hans. But rather than the client selecting which agency to work with, it was more a case of the agency selecting the client. Smith tried to strike an agreement with the Hulsbosch team to change the landscape of the Australian cruise industry. But Hans initially refused. As Smith explains ‘He told me he was not signing up because he said, “I didn’t want the role badly enough, it doesn’t mean enough to you”. And then he got up and left. As a result of that breakfast discussion, I thought long and hard about what it was I’d signed up for. We met again and found common ground. I realised the importance of frank discussions with partners and admitted that trust is tested every week and with every idea and reinterpretation of the brand. Hulsbosch has walked away from clients before who had only demonstrated what Hans calls, “60% commitment.” Now that is what I call passion.’ 5
In 1968 three shipping companies in Norway founded RCI, a cruise line. Its first cruise ship set sail in 1970 and RCI quickly built itself into a phenomenal success story. They are known to continuously innovate, for example they developed the very first at-sea fitness program in 1984 (ShipShape) and the environmental program ‘Save the Waves’ in 1992. RCI is constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s expected from a modern cruise line with fun innovations, and quality service to unrivalled holiday experiences. When you consider their spectacular ships, is it any wonder RCI has become the byword for cruising?6. At first glance, RCI and Carnival cruise lines offer guests much of the same services. The difference between the two cruise lines, however, lies in the details of each amenity, service and experience offered. This sparked ferocious competition and in 2014 RCI was crowned the world’s largest individual cruise line when measured against total passenger capacity7.
Royal Caribbean Premiership campaign 2012
Adam Armstrong, Former Managing Director - Australia & New Zealand
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd
Thus, when RCI set up in Australia’s waters permanently in 2008 it considered itself a challenger cruise brand, starting off with a single, locally based ship the much-loved ‘Rhapsody of the Seas’. But within a matter of months the Hulsbosch team managed to capture the imagination of the cruising public and through sustained and creative branding they smashed booking records year, after year, after year. Strategic long-term planning and tactical marketing disrupted the stranglehold P&O had on the Australian cruise market. Focusing on capacity and coupled with innovative products RCI experienced strong public recognition. Hulsbosch and RCI Australia engineered spectacular growth and with several sister brands including Celebrity Cruises and Azamara club Cruises, it only took eight short years to become the most profitable cruise line in Australia8.
The secret is in the marketing; the Hulsbosch team make sure it is never a template-driven, one-size-fits-all approach. Says Smith ‘When I see other agency processes I think, well that’s because these guys have got a lot of clients, so it’s easier to work to a formula for each and every client. With Hulsbosch, you’d never know they’ve got another client. You’re the only person they think about. They’re improving on the brand every day; it’s evolutionary, they don’t discredit work that has been successful, they just develop it further. The team at Hulsbosch are always looking at other brands, looking around the world, looking to improve. Every day is a process of improvement. What stimulates them is working on brands that think like they do. Hulsbosch is into brands that challenge conventional thinking, brands that want to be different, with constant emphasis on the points of difference’ 9.
It is this very attitude that lifted Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity and Azamara from mere cruising to supercruising. Whilst RCI keeps reinventing cruising with the biggest and most technologically advanced ships to ever sail in our region the Hulsbosch team keeps reinventing cruise marketing.
Gavin Smith, Senior Vice President International
Royal Caribbean International
‘Hulsbosch has become the CEO’s “safe hands” and his team are a constant presence exerting a clear focus on the brand. Royal Caribbean is essentially a ‘fun in the sun’ brand… unapologetic family fun. Selling dreams. We deliver things that no one else can’ 10. For the Hulsbosch team the focus is never on the biggest cruise company in the world with the biggest ships. ‘In branding these days it is not what RCI delivers. That is not good enough anymore. Branding RCI is about extracting the purpose. Telling it authentically. It’s focusing on what the company promises so that cruise customers have affinity with the product and are prepared to invest in that promise’ 11.
What always drives the Hulsbosch team who work on the RCI account is what Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley says: ‘We’re moved by our customer feedback. We pay a lot of attention to what people tell us, but we also try to understand what’s happening into the future. We’re dreamers, we dream about what’s next. We feel like we’re a leader, but not an arrogant leader. We don’t think we’re a leader because we’re the best. We think we’re a leader because we’re always paying attention to what our customers want. That’s what sets us apart‘ 12. RCI’s core identity is reflected in those words, its brand purpose is driven by its leadership and permeates throughout the company. Ultimately it sets the tone for any branding exercise because it demonstrates company values, which at its core, is customer-centric. Marketing RCI takes breadth of vision that requires a collaborative input and ‘the team engages in top-level conversation, and then work with RCI marketing management to interpret the brand. Hulsbosch are in charge of the brand strategy, execution and communications responsibility and in doing so, help the RCI team reach their goals’ 13. Gavin Smith says: ‘But branding is not only about developing and marketing brand promise. It’s also about seeing opportunities for the brand, looking towards the future in the same way as RCI does. Late November 2014 we were in New York sailing down the Hudson on this new mega cruiseliner, way up above it all in the North Star observation capsule I was thinking about how good life is and how the Australian business was going well. We came to New York to celebrate our success. Hans however came to New York to find out how we could get our newest and biggest ship to Australia. His version of success is that you have to think big and challenge yourself and never be satisfied. We found a way, and he got his way - the “Ovation of the Seas” sailed into Australian waters in 201614. This is a double whammy: this is the first time any cruiseline has put a brand new ship in Australia and it is also the biggest investment to date by any cruiseline ever15.
‘Ultimately it’s Hulsbosch whose stewardship is our brand guardian. They always stay ahead of the game. I never have to ask them, they approach us. They tell us what needs to be done to keep the brand true before we’ve even thought about it. It’s a very honest relationship. It’s very open and there’s nowhere to hide. You create, you invent, you publish and then you improve. That’s the cycle’ 16. The Hulsbosch team track bookings daily so they can immediately respond to any given situation. For them good enough is never good enough. ‘They’re not precious; if it doesn’t work they reassess and adapt. There is constant tinkering and fine tuning; an approach that has now become embedded in RCI Australia’s corporate culture’ 17. ‘One of the unique things about this relationship is the ability for Hulsbosch to take feedback on board. We’re doing really well, but we can always do better. They’ll listen to our comments, take them on board and keep going until they come up with the answer. We are in constant touch whether I’m here or overseas, I’ve got their full attention. In the end, it all comes down to trust and the fact that Hulsbosch really and truly know and understand our business’ 18.
Gavin Smith, Senior Vice President International
Royal Caribbean International
Hulsbosch has earned praise from people at the very top of the RCI ladder. They’ve made sure that Australia is one region that President and CEO, Michael Bayley, doesn’t have to worry about. ‘He admires Hulsbosch from afar because like RCI, they focus on tomorrow and beyond. RCI has a “why don’t we?” team who developed our Innovation Lab on our Miami campus which combines technology and creativity using VR (virtual reality) and 3D printing. This team has created and fostered an environment where futurists join our corporate team together with cruise guests. They re-imagine holidays and leisure pastimes into the foreseeable future. This is exactly the world the Hulsbosch team are in - always looking to the future’.19
Back in 2011 the Chinese Government estimated that by 2020 some 4.5 million Chinese will go cruising. Since then vast amounts of Yen have been poured into the development of large, modern cruise terminals in Shanghai, Sanya, Tianjin and Xiamen. The scale and grandeur of each terminal is something that needs to be seen to be believed. With an ever-expanding urban middle class, international cruise companies were falling over themselves to set up shop in China. Since entering the market in 2008, RCI has dramatically accelerated its presence and has carved out a market leadership position. From their home base in Shanghai, Royal Caribbean China offers a variety of on-board products tailored to Chinese guests, including more Chinese language services, Chinese crew, Chinese-inspired menus, enhanced retail and entertainment and culturally appropriate recreational activities20.
China is the world’s second-largest cruise market and RCI has seen exceptional growth year on year. And with the introduction of the 1 billion dollar “Ovation of the Seas” in 2016 it was time to call in the experts to market the Royal Caribbean Cruises Service (China) brand21. According to Dr. Zinan Liu, Vice President of China and the North Asia region, ‘RCI wants consumers to recognise Royal Caribbean as the best cruising brand. We are determined to own this market’22
"Deep within Hulsbosch is a passion to win. They do it better than anyone else."
Gavin Smith, Senior Vice President, Royal Caribbean