Employ Aspirational Psychology to Increase Upscale Cruise

By Mitchell J. Schlesinger

There is a very interesting trend in the car industry that has a direct correlation to selling cruises. According to data provided by Edmunds in a 2016 Lease Market Report, overall, approximately 31% of all car transactions are LEASES. Even more interesting is that for LUXURY cars, that figure ranges from 46-63%, depending on the manufacturer.

Pardon the pun, but what is “driving” (couldn’t resist) this trend? Three things primarily:

• It is clearly much more affordable to lease a car of any category than to outlay large amounts of cash for down payments plus 3-5 years of payments. This is particularly attractive for consumers “ASPIRING” to drive an upscale car that retails for anywhere from $40-$100,000.  And for luxury auto makers, they can entice higher levels of leasing by offering more attractive lease rates, during holiday sales or to off load current model year inventory prior to new models arriving.

•Another key trend is TECHNOLOGY. By leasing a car, consumers get to experience the newest technological advancements and conveniences for both safety and entertainment during a 27-48, month lease and when complete, shop for a new car with the next generation of technological advances. Shopping for a car has become similar to the way consumers shop for cell phones or an IPad/Surface Pro computer.

The trends above are critical for attracting Millennials. Leasing by this critical demographic group has increased 50% from 21% in 2011 to 33% in 2016. Further, they represent the highest share of leases from households with income of $50,000 or less. The combination of affordable monthly payments for an upscale car with an array of very modern technology is extremely enticing to this group

If this trend in the automobile industry sounds familiar it should, because, there is a direct connection to marketing and selling cruises:

• Originally ultra-luxury 6-star cruise ships were 200-500 guests. Now, employing the same financial model logic employed by the mega-ship brands, ultra-luxury ships are 500-900 guests. New larger ships from brands Silver Seas, Seabourn, Regent are similar in size to the 700-1200 guest ships of “Deluxe” brands including Oceania, Viking Ocean and Azamara. The larger ships provide more dining options, bigger spas, more expansive entertainment venues, bars, lounges, etc.  And at scaled pricing, it provides ASPIRATIONAL consumers with an array of options to choose from brands, ships and destination experiences. Further, several of these trusted brands have branched into the expedition, river and yacht cruise markets, providing even more ASPIRATIONAL destination experiences.

•But this is not limited to Deluxe, 5 & 6-star brands. There are ASPIRATIONAL opportunities on newer premium and mainstream category ships. Newer ships from multiple brands feature special suite accommodations with private deck space, concierge services, specialty dining and more. This “MASSCLUSIVITY” enables guests to experience the myriad of dining options, Broadway-scale entertainment, expansive casino, shopping and spa offerings, and numerous other guest services offered on mega-sized ships while enjoying the privacy of their upscale accommodations. It also enables the cruise lines to market these ships across a wide spectrum of demographic customers, particularly appealing to ASPIRTIONAL travelers who want to enjoy everything the BIG ships have to offer, while having their own special exclusive accommodations.

•And similar to car purchasing, technology has also become more of a factor in ship selection.  

•New ship technology includes features to make the guest experience more fun, including Go-Karts, water slides, zip lines, wave riders, etc.

•The technology is importantly designed to make the experience more efficient including facial recognition, geo-location, and apps for purchasing services, choosing dining options, shore excursions, spa appointments, etc. all with the result of eliminating lines, long waits and over-crowding.

•Examples of this is the Carnival Corp. Medallion, and Royal Caribbean WOW bands which are designed to interact with the entire ship, sensors and digital screens, include the guests vacation preferences, and connect the guest more directly to the onboard staff.

•As these technological advances are implemented consumers will have an added dimension to their decision process for selecting a cruise vacation. And they will try different cruise brands by virtue of the technological advances available.  

ALL of these trends create new and different ways to market and sell cruises to consumers who want special experiences that feel customized to them. I have said over and over that it one makes NO sense to promote introductory inside cabin prices when there are so many opportunities to appeal to consumers desires to get the most experience for the best value while treating themselves, so their vacation is special and memorable.  Smart travel professionals will embrace this notion of appealing to ASPIRATIONAL desires, adjust promotional marketing messaging, the tone of their websites, make more upscale sales, more commission and be more profitable.