In the recent wake (no pun intended) of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ship malfunctions and issues, the senior management at the company must be wondering what type of impact it will have on future business. The number of reported issues on cruise ships has grown to four in the past few months (beginning with Triumph then the Elation, the Dream and the Legend). It seems every time you click on another headline story involves Carnival. Senior officials at Carnival have made a good attempt at damage control with passengers by providing such perks as discounts on future cruises, all expense paid return flights from detoured destinations, on-board credits and refunds for excursions. During the multiple-day hold over at sea on the Triumph (the worst of the four PR massacres), Carnival was nice enough to provide passengers with free ketchup sandwiches.

how can carnival cruise lines fix its image

One of the gourmet meals now served on Carnival’s Triumph. On sale for $14.95.

Although Carnival has attempted to recoup their image and loyalty with the passengers that experienced these problems while sailing, they may be missing out on the larger picture. How do these recent Carnival Cruise Line issues impact business for future bookings? Will consumers who planned on booking a cruise in the near future remain loyal to Carnival, switch to a different cruise line or simply avoid a cruise vacation in general? These are all questions that Carnival needs to be asking the general consumer audience in order to get a better hold on the impact of these recent events. This can easily be accomplished through a quantitative and statistically reliable survey using market research.

how can carnival cruise lines fix its image

How can Carnival Cruise Lines fix its image? Here are five steps to find out using market research:

1. Hire a market research firm and consultant. Okay, this might be a bit self-serving, but it’s true. This is in fact a market research blog, for a market research firm… Carnival needs to work with an independent third-party market research firm to ensure questions are asked objectively that would eliminate bias and guarantee the results would be reliable. Market research firms write scripts on a daily basis and can professionally and proficiently deliver for Carnival. Why should you choose Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) as your market research firm?

2. Use an image and awareness or brand equity survey. This type of study is what Carnival would need to answer its image questions. This study is conducted among a random sample of households (400 completes, 800 completes, 1,000+ completes). Respondents would be screened to ensure the survey is being conducted among decision-makers. The randomness of the sampling technique and high number of completes would ensure that all statistics detailed in the report would be within a +/- 5 percent margin of error at the 95 percent confidence interval. This would ensure Carnival that if the same survey was conducted again, that 95 out of 100 times results would yield within 5 percent or less of their stated totals.

3. Choose online or telephone. It would be recommended by RMS that the study be conducted over the phone using a random land-line and cell phone sample. However, the market research firm should also examine the possibility of using an online panel (which may reduce costs) for Carnival.

4. Ask the right questions. A typical five- to seven-minute image and awareness survey would include about 15 to 25 questions, most of which would be close-ended. This survey would want to test awareness of the Carnival Cruise lines issues over the past few months, how those issues have impacted the brand of Carnival and how those issues have impacted the interest and desire to book a cruise with Carnival versus other cruise lines. The market research firm would be able to obtain data such as: Carnival should expect a decrease of X percent in bookings for 2013-14 among new customers; negative perceptions of Carnival rose from X percent to Y percent in the past few months and here is why, etc. Of course, those statistics are simply theoretical and are meant to just be an example of potential data. Other secondary objectives could also be covered for Carnival. Questions like what it would take to get you to book a cruise with Carnival, etc.

5. Review the results with the market research firm and act. After the study is completed, the market research firm would meet with Carnival to review the results in-depth and understand the impact of the data. The market research firm should also consult with Carnival to develop action items to improve the image and brand of Carnival. In the end, Carnival would have an idea of the general population’s perception of the cruise line and ensure that the actions they take would positively impact the majority’s view.

Using market research should be the first step to correct Carnival Cruise Lines’ image. The company needs to understand how the ship malfunctions and negative PR have impacted potential business rather than using a wait and see approach.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a global market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. For more information about the company visit the website at or call (315) 635-9802.