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Costa Concordia and Brand Reputation Management

January 24, 2012

A huge part of public relations and brand marketing is reputation management. IN small terms, that means monitoring social networks, news feeds and blogs for any possible disgruntled consumer or unhappy fan. In big money terms, this means taking a disaster that is truly unimaginable, such as the Costa Concordia shipwreck, from becoming a brand destroying, company crushing event…no small feat.

Brand Risk Taking

Every brand takes risks, but hopefully these risks are calculated and are strategically taken in order to increase brand equity. The Costa Concordia, owned by Carnival Corp, took one huge risk in the name of increasing brand awareness that ultimately has tarnished the brand forever.
According to the ship captain, this giant luxury cruise liner traveled extremely close to shore many times in order to ‘generate publicity for the cruise line.’ By traveling close to shore, the Costa Concordia was more than just a luxury vacation for those on board, it was also a traveling advertisement and brand marketing ploy.

This decision, however, took the idea of ‘publicity’ and increasing brand visibility to an entirely new level by not accurately calculating the risk involved not only to the travelers on board the ship, but the overall brand itself.

Brand Reputation Management

When you are the cause of a disaster on this grand scale, you must be ahead of the PR battle on every front. Offering shipwreck survivors a discount on their next cruise might not be the best way to handle your reputation. This only adds insult to injury, and when you are attempting to handle every aspect of this tragedy with marketing finesse, Costa Cruises and Carnival is failing miserably.

"The company is not only going to refund everybody but they will offer a 30 per cent discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company."

To add more fuel to the PR fire, Cost Cruises and Carnival denied the discounted offer, and then retracted that denial, ultimately admitting they did offer discounted cruises to shipwreck survivors.

While offering discounted cruises to survivors was one mistake, making the statement that they’d get the discount “if they want to stay loyal to the company” was probably even worse. In brand reputation management, the biggest mistake that any PR professional can make is to ask disheartened consumers to remain loyal to a company. You don’t ask for loyalty or brand equity, you build it, cultivate it, and reinforce again and again why your brand is trustworthy, genuine, and worth the equity.