Wednesday, September 12, 2007

When open access and lack of brand control goes wrong

Here is a lesson to bloggers and travel industry brand managers the world over.

The Carnival Cruise Blog has fallen prey to a rather unfortunate piece of, er, link-baiting today.

The blog's home page, which is generated by posts from users about their experience of cruise holidays with Carnival, was populated by links to some rather unsavoury hardcore pornography sites.

[Nathan on the Travel Weekly Blog noticed some odd activity on an RSS feed a few days ago]

The initial response from Carnival Cruise in the UK when we called them this morning went something like this:

However, the plot thickened when Lynn Narraway, Carnival's UK director of sales and marketing, called back to say the blog is actually nothing to do with Carnival Cruise but is run by an independent travel agent in California who just happens to sell their products.

Understandably, Carnival is hopping mad about this and is desperately trying to contact the blogger in order to get the material taken down. [The posts were finally removed during the evening of 13 Sept - two days after they first appeared]

The lessons to be learned here are very obvious:
  • If, as a blog editor, you allow anybody to write posts there REALLY SHOULD BE checks or filters in place to ensure this kind of thing doesn't happen - at all.
  • If you are global and high-profile brand (like Carnival) and are aware of a blog which looks like it belongs to the company in terms of its branding, you need to persuade the blog owner to at least highlight its independence.
In fact, the header for the blog currently reads: "Carnival Cruises. Community for Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise Ships."

Confusing for the consumer? You bet.

Carnival does associate itself (via its corporate investor pages) with a modestly successful blog, written by senior cruise director John Heald.

We imagine there is a lot of what PRs call "firefighting" going on in Miami (Carnival global HQ) at the moment.

Unfortunately Carnival's strapline, "The Fun Ships", is resonating with readers of the Carnival Cruise Blog slightly more than marketers were anticipating.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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1 comment:

Darren said...

OMG, that's bad! I bet Nathan fell out of his chair after finding this hahah!

You've made a good point about companies making sure that independent blogs are highlighted not associated with the company concerned.

I'm surprised that companies don't take control over what content is on the internet that affects their branding.

Blogs is one - affiliate sites is another, but I won't get onto that discussion here ;)