Below are price ranges for three different contemporary cruise lines for August 2009 sailings, balcony cabin, all 7-day eastern Caribbean cruises:

  • Brand 1 = $739 - $1,309
  • Brand 2 = $999 - $1,149
  • Brand 3 = $1,463 - $2,309

Why is one line able to fill cabins at rates 50% to 100% higher than the others?  Why are consumers willing to pay a steep premium even in tough economic times?

It is due to passion - consumer's passion for the brand.  Review the passion pyramid below.  At its pinnacle is aspirational attainment - a brands ability to fulfill a market's goals and dreams.  Consumers who get here feel a kinship with the brand, they are where they belong and are willing to pay to get there.  At the bottom is the mass market, where there is no pricing power because the vacation experience is a commodity competing on price.


Consider an example from the auto industry, where consumers pay more to purchase and maintain large SUV's with four-wheel drives that are rarely if ever engaged.  What is engaged is the fulfillment of the dream or idea that one could escape - a member of the group that can climb mountains and steer around avalanches - even if it is only on the way to the suburban grocery store.

A family vacation at its core is functional, but the choice of what vacation you take is "what does it say about me."  Consumers today consciously choose to associate with your brand.  It is the label you use to display your kinship, like kachina dolls displayed in Native American Hopi family dwellings to designate membership in various clans.  It is not just your vacation, it is telling others who you are.


And who is willing to pay a 100% premium for a contemporary cruise?  Consumers who aspire to become members of the Disney clan.  Disney's power is derived from the fact they are not communicating in monologue, but engaging across multiple channels; cable networks, teenage pop stars, theme parks and 80-year-old characters that are cultural icons.  Professor Ludwig Von Drake introduces me to cruising via podcast on my iPhone.

prof-von-drakeMost recently Disney Cruise Line is partnering with Kodak and Disney Channel to deliver themed cruises where cruisers will mingle with stars from Disney Channel shows like Hannah Montana, Sonny With A Chance, The Suite Life on Deck, JONAS, Camp Rock and High School Musical.  All complete with autograph session and live performances.

"A dream come true for hundreds of kids this summer by offering kids the possibility to hang out with their favorite Disney Channel stars."

Now that is something to aspire to.