Imagine your favorite fast-food chain sliding into the world of gourmet dining. Or the retail brand you’re most loyal to suddenly advocating for nudity.
How about a cruise line marketing land, not sea?
That’s exactly what Azamara is doing -- with huge success. The brand, which is part of Royal Caribbean Cruises, has undergone a dramatic rebrand with the help of its agency of record, Republica Havas.
"I came to this brand two years ago and what was really exciting is that it already knew who it was," said Annette Arango, global head of marketing and PR at Azamara.
"We spend more time crafting experiences that connect to local life and culture, and that’s what really sets the brand apart. When a brand knows who they are and what they stand for, it’s a marketer’s dream to come in and develop that creative expression."
And develop they have. Azamara’s relationship with Republica, Havas’ full service agency with a strong footprint in the U.S. and multicultural markets, kicked off following a competitive review around the same time Arango came on board.
Republica was originally its global strategic agency, but that quickly evolved to sit at the helm of creative.
The duo saw a space within the industry to double-down on unique storytelling. In March 2018, brand platform "Explore Further" was born. It was a chance to make a bigger deal out of the destinations Azamara provides, as well as the on board experience.
"We are a small brand and we don’t have the amount of marketing dollars that our competitors have so the fact the we’re able to speak in a unique way really sets us apart," Arango continued.
"We’ve gone from this one dimensional approach to many dimensions where our storytelling is a lot more engaging. We’re telling our story in a very integrated and strategic way across our media channels."
Arango said the brand experienced "drastic year-on-year growth" of bookings, website traffic, PR and social impressions following the launch of "Explore Further."
She stressed: "From a revenue standpoint, this year, we’re the best the brand has ever been."
The campaign positioning took a giant leap forward in June this year when Azamara unveiled a major increase in its pre and post-voyage land offerings with more than 1,700 excursions in more than 40 countries -- the most any cruise company can boast.
This coincided with a brand logo refresh which included a shortening of the name: "Azamara Club Cruises" was now "Azamara."
A laser focus on its land activities has put the company in a different league, and expanded its competition.
Arango continued: "We’re not looking at ourselves within the cruise industry -- our competitive set has now grown to include land operators. We are heavily focused on making sure that our land portfolio is front and center in our communications going forward.
"We’re now seeing that other brands are reacting to what we’ve put out. Even though they’re trying to put their stake in the ground, we’re still ahead of the game here."
The integrated campaign lives across digital media, but not TV and radio, owing to a limited budget. But that hasn’t harmed its reach. A hyper-targeted consumer approach of its Boomer audience (with an average age of around 60) plays out through multiple mediums including via the travel agency community.
Azamara’s key to success, Arango says, has been the brand/agency relationship.
She added: "What was exciting with this partnership is that the creative team really listened. A lot of clients will say ‘this agency relationship didn’t work out for X, Y and Z reasons,’ but I think a lot of it has to do with giving them the right insights and direction for them to deliver the work that we want. That’s why our teams work together because we’re giving them a proper briefing and they’re really listening."
Jorge A. Plasencia, co-founder and CEO at Republica Havas, said: "It’s been a fantastic relationship.
"They’ve evolved the brand. It’s modern, fresh. It’s a cruise line where what you do when you get to destinations around the world is as important as the high-end experience on the ship. 'Explore Further' is a call for action to truly go out and enjoy every part of the destination and get immersed."