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Royal Caribbean's President Shares Challenges in Building a Global Brand with Executive MBA Students

September 13, 2014
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Pictured: Adam Goldstein, president and chief operating officer of Royal Caribbean International in Miami, spoke with MBA students and explored how building a brand is a constant challenge.

Building a global brand is always a work in process, according to Adam Goldstein, president and chief operating officer of Royal Caribbean International in Miami. "By almost any measure our brand is phenomenal," said Goldstein in a September 13 guest lecture to School of Business Executive MBA students. "But it's a constant challenge to try to express what we do in a way that is truly reflective of the special experiences and memories we create for our guests."

Joseph Johnson, associate professor of marketing moderated the interactive discussion that included student questions on crisis management, pricing, travel agents and other topics. "We believe it's important for our students to hear from real-world executives about the challenges involved in developing a strong brand," Johnson said.

A 26-year veteran with Royal Caribbean, Goldstein said the company's culture has been based on operational excellence since its first sailing in 1970. From its initial base in Miami, the company has evolved through the decades to build a global platform with six cruise brands. "Ten years ago, China was a blank space on the cruise map," he said. "But by next summer four Royal Caribbean International ships will be homeported in China, including Quantum of the Seas, which will launch this fall, spend the winter in New York and then sail from Shanghai." 

From a marketing perspective, the key challenge with Royal Caribbean's brand is how to allocate resources, build skills sets and use technology effectively in North America, Europe and Asia/Pacific at the same time. "We are trying to harmonize our agencies around the world and get them to understand the vision of our brand as a creator of 'wow experiences' for our guests," Goldstein said. "But it's a constant challenge to convey that message across 50 countries with multiple languages and in markets at very different levels on the maturity curve."

When asked later about how Royal Caribbean uses customer insights to formulate its brand offerings, Goldstein said, "We are fortunate in that our customers live with us, so they demonstrate their preferences around the clock. We also get 50 to 75 percent responses to our post-cruise surveys. So we have plenty of data – the challenge is to mine that database for the right nuggets of information."

In response to another question about rivalry within the cruise industry, Goldstein said the real competition is between vacations on sea (about 3 percent of the market) and vacations on land (97 percent).  "We are still trying to overcome misperceptions about cruising, like it's too expensive and all anyone does is eat all day," he said. "The reality is that cruises have plenty of activities and options that appeal to everyone in the family, and our guests enjoy special moments that become cherished memories in their lives.  That's why our marketing effort focuses on capturing that new-to-cruise customer. That is the real competitive battleground for our entire industry." 

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