If Russell Davies will forgive me, I have a new assignment for his Account Planning School of the Web.
The topic: the cruise ship industry.
The question: what the hell happened?
The task: break down the problem, build up the industry.
Your assignment (should you accept it):
save this industry with a cunning piece of meaning management. First the analysis. Then the creative. For God’s sake, Tom, do something!
It’s no fair asking others to do what you will not do yourself. So here’s my 5 cents worth, just to get things started. I expect submissions to be vastly better than what follows.
The real world seemed to become a theater for cruise ship misadventure. Terrorists killed an Israeli citizen on one cruise ship. A mysterious disease broke out on another. Staff members were accused of sexual impropriety on a third. And for one Greenwich man featured on 60 Minutes (or something), a honeymoon cruise ended in death.
All of this is from memory, and that is as it should be. The idea "cruise ship," once idyllic and peaceful, is now crowded with violent images and vague fears. Something tells me a cruise ship was actually even boarded by pirates. I may be thinking of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou but the point is "Cruise ship" is now a semantic space that invites "boarding" by malevolent creatures and unhappy imaginings of every kind.
2) A suburb at sea
Something about the idea of cruise ship is suggests that even if things go well, the possibility of captivity is still quite likely. I mean, what if you get stuck at a table with real drones. What if there is no TV, and all the films are Gidget. What if you really feel like getting away from it all? Where are you going to go? It’s as if cruise ship stayed still and the ocean moved beneath it. Somehow I think of the cruise ship as a suburb at sea, predictable and tedious. Sure, you can get off in port. What, and go shopping? Cruise ships feel like a world with the dynamism removed. (And perhaps this is why we are now so prepared to imagine bad things. Perhaps we trying to put the dynamism back in. We merely over corrected.)
3) Resort culture
There was a time, the 1950s, say, when this culture worshipped lots of things that were bad for you: sugar, sun, fat, salt, alcohol, smoking and Wayne Newton. People went to Vegas and other resorts to relax. But it’s a wonder they made it home alive. Some part of me imagines (falsely, I’m sure) that cruise ships just happen to be the place that resort culture went to die. I imagine that some where out there on the ocean are little worlds of smorgasbord, free drinks, lounge acts, gambling, sun burns and frightening quantities of cholesterol. The old Vegas. In technocolor. Out there on the high seas. Vegas before Circe and Steve. Vegas without the drugs and prostitution to give the place the tang of criminality and lawlessness. Vegas with no mobsters to add drama and snappy dressing.
4) the anti-Cuba
Someone once persuaded me that the future was going to look like Cuba before the revolution, that it would become a place of unimaginable contrast, cruelty, and extravagance. I don’t that this is true, but by this standard, cruise ships, as opportunities for new experience and engagement, feel a little like toys for the bathtub, tiny, plastic ships that can negotiate the miniature, well enamelled sea, but no other. Adventure or excitement? Forget it. By this reckoning, what the cruise ship does, effectively, is to lock the traveller away from the world.
Ok, that’s enough. Feel free to discard, rewrite, or render intelligible, as you want. Now for the assignment.
1) do your own (better) analysis. What are the systematic properties of cruise ships before the fall. (Or am I kidding myself?) What happened to bring the industry low? What were the deeper cultural trends that drove this descent? What were the more immediate causes? What was happening in the industry itself? (I am not sure how you find this part out, but, hey, if you want to get a degree from Russell Davies, you will learn to be resourceful. Make it up if you have to.)
2) give us a strategic plan
What needs to happen here? Map the strategic space. Lots of fields. Lots of arrows. Lots of powerpointing. How does the cruise ship industry need to do to restore itself?
3) give us an action plan
What do we do now, in the next 12 months, 2 years, and 5 years.
Good luck and God speed.