Friday, July 16, 2010

Promotions and Marketing - Cruise LInes and Other businesses

All businesses seem to run promotions which is fine, but they run them constantly. In fact, many times, it is the same thing packaged differently with a new name. Yes, I realize this is "marketing" and the purpose of marketing is to get people "into the store" or to pick up the phone as the case may be and to sell the companies product. I'm fine with that and even do it myself (our Secret Word Game, our Client Loyalty Rewards Program, our monthly bonus rewards point offer, etc.)

Whatever happened to the "good old days" when it was truly a "sale" when it really was a special deal?

Before I get to cruise lines, here are a couple of examples (I will not mention company names but you might figure out who they are:

1) A supplier of eyeglasses, ready in about an hour, always has a sale - Free Frames, Free Lenses, 30, 40, 50% off both - and every time we go in to get new glasses, the final price is always about the same.

2) A clothing store constantly has "Buy 1 at regular price and get one or two free. All suits 50% off" Bottom line - the total of the items seems to be about the same.

3) Furniture is a prime example of the overuse of the word "sale" IMHO. "30% off our regular price!" the ad might say but did you know that the "regular price" is an arbitrary number the store set, not the MSIP (manufacturer's suggested retail price). They have never sold the item at the "regular price" and never will. If they want to say 50% off, then they make the "regular price" higher and when they take the 50% off, the bottom line price will be the same as when they take 30% off the "regular price."

4) Cruise Lines - Free Air, 2 for 1, free upgrade, Cash Back, etc. but is anything really free? Let's face it - promotions are simply to sell space on a particular sailing (s) that might be hard to fill anyway. Brochure Rates are like Rack Rates in hotels. It is extremely rare that anyone ever pays those prices or that the item/space is sold at that price; like furniture's "regular price. Wishful thinking? Possibly. But something to run a promotion from to make it sound soooo good, probably.

With cruises, everyone will be entitled to some type of promotional price. Yes, there are some prices that require a type of "qualification" such as past passenger, regional (live in a certain state or region), Sr., and some others that do offer special lower pricing for a limited time, but if you get "hung up" on a promotional piece because of what it says in LARGE PRINT, and you don't read the small print at the bottom of the ad, you may actually miss out on something worthwhile by not using a reputable agent. You see, they almost always say "select sailings" and "from" and "capacity controlled".

What is:
  • "Select sailing?" It is a date of sailing that is harder to fill the ship than most others.
  • "From" always refers to the lowest type cabin category and/or undesirable location on the ship
  • "Capacity Controlled" means that maybe there is only one at that price (usually more but could be one.)
  • "2 for 1" is used in conjunction with the brochure rate.
  • "FREE Air" - is it really Free? Many times we find the cabin price is higher than another "rate code" or promotion to offset the cost of air.

Remember TANSTAAFL - there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

As an agent, always trying to get the best value (notice I said value not just price), for our client and knowing how to interpret the various "rate codes" and promotions to find the best deal for them, these constant promotions really do become a challenge for myself and other agents so they must really be confusing to the consumer. Is that what the cruise lines want?

I think what they really want is to keep their ships full and use this type of constant "special deal marketing" to accomplish and reach the goal. Does it work? It does! Ships go out full. But unfortunately, the industry has gotten so "entrenched" in the price, they forget to "sell" the value.

Sometimes there are many different "rate codes" on a particular sailing. but guess what, the bottom line is the same for all of these codes. Why not eliminate the confusion and just price the product what you want to sell it for. Then if you want to run a special promotion, it might really be special and attract new business. Will this happen? Probably not with some rare exceptions.

I just wanted to get this off my chest but I'm realistic enough to know it will not change. So, we will continue to do what we've done for over 8 years - research, analyse and come up with the best pricing and value we can for clients at the time of booking and fight the cruise lines if they actually lower pricing later on through some other "promotion."

This topic has become relevant and a confusing time due to one cruise lines current promotion. I will not name names but trust us to give you the best advice and honest assesment and to find you the best value when you book your cruise vacation with us. I say value not price because sometimes we might recommend something that costs a little bit more but gives more value, and other times, we have actually tried to explain why booking at a lower price or category makes more sense and is actually better value. That's our job as your advocate when you are our customer.

One last point - our promotions as mentioned above, DO NOT cost you any more but are truly some EXTRA value for a specific time period for a specific reason. When they are over, they are over.

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