Berra said he believes the $25 million campaign, which also has radio, digital and direct-mail components, will appeal both to people who have been on a Carnival cruise and those who have thought about a cruise vacation but are still uncertain. He expects the ads to drive business for the fourth quarter of this year and into the first quarter of 2014.
The extent of the campaign is unusual for the fall; cruise lines typically roll out their biggest ads during the “wave season” at the beginning of the year. Berra said the company was encouraged to move forward by signs that brand perception was recovering over the summer and into early September.
Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst for Hudson Crossing, thinks Carnival has been on the right track with the investments in safety and money-back guarantee. But he thinks the new ads are a misstep.
“It comes off as trite; it lacks the credibility,” he said. “Frankly, it lacks the gravitas that Carnival needs to have. Carnival is still in rebuilding mode. I don’t think it would be fair to say it has yet regained the public’s trust or the trust of travel agents. I think its marketing communications should be more circumspect.”
Harteveldt said he believes the line would be better served by highlighting its investments in serious things like safety as well as improvements to make guest experiences more fun.
“I just think that Carnival has to be very careful right now to rebuild trust,” he said. “And to make people know that it hasn’t either forgotten or that it’s not ignoring the very serious issues that have plagued the line.”
Cahill said he views the problems from earlier this year as an opportunity for the company to re-examine everything it does.
“My goal as a result of all this is to take what happened and to improve Carnival as a brand and to improve Carnival as a company,” he said. “I think we’re taking the steps to do that. We learned a lot of things, we corrected course, and I think the steps we’re taking ... are all going to make us a better company and a better product for our guests.”
The next phase, Cahill and other Carnival insiders say, will be to roll out new innovations to make the guest experience better. Cahill wouldn’t go into specifics, though Berra said entertainment, dining and youth programs will be included.
Cahill said the plan for future announcements is “to reinforce the whole idea of what a great product, what a great vacation experience we provide to guests.”
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of the website CruiseCritic.com, said she senses “much more of a positive great energy” coming from Carnival lately.
“The safety was the most important issue to tackle first,” she said. “But now it’s time for the fun stuff. And that feels great.”