holland america line

challenging a travel category to explore new growth audiences post covid

A subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, Holland America Line (HAL) has been a recognised leader in cruising for over 149 years, cruising seven continents across the globe

Strengthened and defined brand purpose 

Identified a new target audience

Initiatives ranging from cruise format to onboard activations

Tone of voice protocol to inspire but also assure

Brand architecture including vision, belief, brand idea and mission

Online and real-world sales funnel recommendations

Strategic and creative territories

Manifesto and inspiration

“The research and outcomes were not just extensive but insightful, providing a clearly illuminated path forward rather than just a statement of fact. With so many unknowns and much stakeholder (and consumer) opinion at the time this was our ‘source of truth’ moment. The outcomes ranged from practical and strategic recommendations to inspirational territory exploration. Ultimately, we found new opportunities for the business to gain trust and growth in a changed market”
Brendan Wall
senior marketing Manager, Holland America Line

the situation

During and post COVID. The Cruise industry had been severely impacted by fear arising from safety concerns (regarding health, being stranded on board, or stranded overseas). LDN were engaged to help understand HAL’s customer brand perception in Australia and make recommendations regarding positioning strategy. The Client was keen to understand all factors affecting decisions around their brand.

the objective​

A renewed and strengthened understanding of target consumer, best communication practises, key purchase-decision drivers, as well as brand engagement by channel.

the process

Business (Holland America Line’s world)

We interviewed stakeholders across and around the business, from management roles, to those that worked on board, from customer service, to third party representatives (such as Flight Centre). These confidential interviews the current pressures on HAL itself (as well as the larger industry issue), the opportunities as they saw them, what makes HAL unique and brilliant, the role they believe it plays ( or should play) in people’s, frustrations and fear, hopes and desires. Each interview was concluded with ‘if you could be CEO for a day and had a free rein, (and budget no issue) what would you do’? The passion and depth of practical, creative and future-focussed ideas that emerged from these interviews not onlt fed this project but helped initiate a number of other streams!

Human (real-world customers)

We held a number of qualitative research groups across those that ‘active cruisers’, ‘lapsed cruisers’ and ‘cruise curious’. We wanted to understand what appeal this particular genre held, whether this was universal across all groups, and why choose HAL especially. We questioned what was holding people back from ‘giving it a go’ (perceptions), and what people feared for. We questioned the role of travel more broadly, the role it played across age and demographics and used workshop techniques to encourage participants to blue-sky ideate what the HAL experience of the future could look like, and why.

Environment (big wide world)

The macro research focussed initially on how Covid shook the Australian Cruise industry to the core, with infections onboard gaining extensive media attention. For an industry that positions itself as a safe and enjoyable way to travel, and with many of its’ clients often being older and more medically vulnerable we needed a complete understanding of the medical, social and cultural factors. Australian and international studies and statistics were reviewed to help us understand what Cruise was being ‘switched out for’ and why. We also looked at the psychological factors that arose through Covid and the human emotional and physical needs that now existed in society. This extensive documentation, media and socio study helped us understand the macro cultural situation we needed to navigate

The gap

This is a snapshot of the insights identified through the research process. This project was so timely, and informative that we actually provided several ‘gap’ iterations for the client to create ongoing internal workstreams as desired!

the outcome

This work contributed to an uplift in advance bookings even prior to Covid restrictions being lifted. Thanks to research recommendations, media planning was adjusted to target the two new main personas, opening up a new customer base for the business.

The business continues to review, refresh and revitalise across all comsumer touch points prior, onboard and beyond with a clear focus on experiences that better us as individuals, and as global citizens.



HAL provides a role giving humans what they need from reinvigoration to self-actualisation via a timeless experience.



We want to comfortably step outside of our ‘everydays’ and be inspired by ideas, human connections and experiences that enrich us.



In a ‘reset’ world of travel there is curiosity to find better / different ways to find an experience that answers our desire to ‘feel, experience and adventure again’; “we are ready for a better way… but struggling to find a trusted guide”



HAL can safely help make the world a better place through opening minds, building connections, and inspiring a shared humanity

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