American Queen Voyages hits the seas with a data-driven rebrand

American Queen Voyages
American Queen Voyages

The cruise company worked with new agency partner MRM to create a brand identity that reflects the movement of the waters.

What if your brand could be uniquely experienced by every person who interacts with it?

That was the goal behind North American cruise ship operator American Queen Voyage’s rebrand, designed by Interpublic Group agency MRM, which is influenced by the movement of the waters where American Queen sails.

The logo deconstructs American Queen’s iconic red paddle wheel logo into individual patterns, using data from the speed of the water current, the speed of the boat, the distance traveled and the amount of time stopped at a port to create a unique design for each passenger, based on their trip.

For instance, a person traveling on an American Queen steamboat in the Mississippi River would receive a different pattern on a room key or poster, for instance, than a passenger on a cruise ship through the Great Lakes, explained Harsh Kapadia, EVP, chief creative officer at MRM East, which is part of IPG’s McCann Worldgroup network.

“We wanted this to be a different experience for everyone,” he said. “You'll never see the same design again, because the waters truly shape the entire system. Every artwork is a screenshot from a moment in time.”

The new design system extends to every touchpoint a passenger has with an American Queen ship, from the first marketing materials they see while planning the trip, to the products they receive on board, to the communications they receive after the trip has ended.

The new design system is backed by the tagline “Discovery Runs Deep,” and launches with a 60-second spot that showcases all of the unique experiences American Queen passengers can have on its ships and in its ports.

The rebrand comes ahead of American Queen Voyages’ 10th anniversary, and after it completed its merger with Victory Cruise Lines and changed its name from American Queen Steamboat Company. The merger expanded American Queen’s fleet beyond just steamboats, sparking the need for a new brand.

“We needed a brand name, logo and positioning that could encapsulate all of that,” said Kari Tarnowski, SVP of marketing and sales at American Queen Voyages.

Like most cruise-ship operators, the company took a hit during COVID, but set sail on the waters again in March 2021. Since then demand has come back up, but was impacted by the rise of the delta variant in August.

While launching a rebrand in the middle of a pandemic with heavy travel restrictions may seem counterintuitive, the inability to sail in 2020 provided an opportunity to step back and reevaluate the brand, Tarnowski said.

She added that now is an ideal time to remind North American cruisers who often set sail in faraway countries that there are plenty of adventures to explore closer to home, too.

“With all that's happening right now, this is not as complicated as going international,” she said.

American Queen hired MRM as its AOR over the summer without a pitch. While branding projects aren’t typical for the CRM and data-driven creative agency, “data-powered design is truly our wheelhouse,” Kapadia said.

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