Royal Caribbean throws home parties to sell cruises

Royal Caribbean throws home parties to sell cruises
Mariner of the Seas

Mariner of the Seas

Will the Tupperware model work for the travel industry?

Royal Caribbean tried this marketing strategy in late summer to see if it would float. Using House Party, a consumer activation and experiential marketing company, and teaming up with Cruise Planners/American Express, the line introduced more than 14,000 consumers to a cruising experience in 1,000 homes across the country.

Most women are very familiar with the format: You invite friends into your home to attend a fun, authentic theme party — all about Royal Caribbean cruising in this case, as opposed to food prep tools, make-up, sex toys, baskets or candles. Cruise planners were on hand to answer questions, and the hosts are tracking results at microsites. These online communities also allow hosts and attendees to upload photos and talk about their experiences, thus extending the good times (and brand strength) via social media.

I’m betting the exclusive gifts and discounts on sailings Royal Caribbean offered attendees didn’t hurt, either. Nor does the fact participants earn drawing entries for every photo they post.

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“We wanted and found consumers who were willing to share their enthusiasm and love of cruising with their friends and family,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners/American Express. “The hosts and guests shared their passion for travel and learned more about all the fun and activities that Cruise Planners and Royal Caribbean International have to offer.”

Can cruises imitate Tupperware?

Can cruises imitate Tupperware?

On the other hand, apparently no one is tracking whether this ploy could double back to bite RCCL. Home parties may work on the bottom line, but the grumbling folks do behind the hostess’ back at having to attend yet another jewelry party and shell out money on stuff they don’t needout of pressure to help a friend is real. The pressure is getting greater: In 2006, NPD Group polled 40,000 women and found 7% had attended a home product party within the past eight months. That compares to 3% in a survey done eight months prior.

Nor is Royal Caribbean the first with this idea by a long shot. Among the companies that have dabbled in home sales: Jockey, Aerosoles, and even AT&T. House Parties in the past has turned your neighbors’ backyard Fourth of July barbecues, Halloween parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations into sales pitches for everything from CDs, DVDs, TV shows and video releases.

At what point will the average American balk at turning friendships into commercial opportunities for sale? Luckily for Royal Caribbean, which has not released hard numbers from its August 8 experiment, the answer is not now.

Photography: Svensonsan (Flickr) prayitno (Flickr)