Digital Transformation and Reimagined Brand Messages for Travelers in the Pandemic: Empirical Investigation on Twitter Data From Cruise Brands

Digital Transformation and Reimagined Brand Messages for Travelers in the Pandemic: Empirical Investigation on Twitter Data From Cruise Brands

Jiyoon An
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9008-9.ch013
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In the pre-pandemic era, price competition dominates digital brand messages in the tourism industry for “call to action”; however, in the pandemic era, the focus of digital brand messages is to provide aspiration for potential travelers. For example, the cruise industry used to focus on providing information on deals in the communication, but today it appears to maintain attention, interest, and desire for cruise which has not been continued due to pandemic. In the pre-pandemic era, loyalty can be measured by action-level purchase data, but today it can be measured by attitudinal data including reactions to the social media messages. This chapter used text mining methods to examine how various brands adopts different messages strategies with various sentiments and topics. These empirical findings will provide theoretical and managerial implications for digital communication strategies for more reactions and digital brand management for greater loyalty.
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A brand message is designed to build, maintain, and strengthen brand equity to the target audience as a managed activity (Nandan 2005). Marketing scholars conceptualize brand equity with four elements: brand awareness, brand loyalty, perceived quality of brand, and brand associations (Yoo and Donthu 2001). Major players (Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Carnival) in the cruise industry are well-recognized and loved by consumers. During the pandemic, cruise brands have not been operated in a regular capacity. Although the cruise brands seem to possess high level of brand awareness and loyalty, the other elements of brand equity, including service quality and positive associations with the brands, have been troubled since the Diamond Princess incident in 2020 because the pandemic has raised the concerns of health and safety in perceived service quality of cruise brands, damaging their operational and financial performances (Forbes 2021). Whereas the industry has recorded a recovery in the market size of $23.8 billion in 2021, which still is the half of the market size in 2019 (Cruise market watch 2021).

Brand messages in the cruise industry have been conventionally used as a vehicle to grow the market size. This comes from the nature of the cruise industry because brand messages including availability of discount and seasonality would help demand-supply management as their market offering is a time-sensitive service with limited supply, but demand is flexible as a function of brand messages (Ayvaz-Cavdaroglu et al. 2019). In the pandemic, cruise brands face a growing need to address service quality concerns in terms of health and safety and are eager to establish brand associations when cruise ships are not able to operate because of pandemic-related restrictions (The Wall Street Journal 2021). Against this backdrop, social media marketing has become a center of cruise brands’ efforts, which adopts a new view on a brand’s messages for crisis management, sentiment management, and brand engagement metrics. In this new paradigm, the objective of brand messages has been reimagined from greater revenue and sales to more unique and positive associations with enhanced service quality and future purchase intention.

This paper is designed to examine this transition focusing on how cruise brand messages have evolved for travelers during the pandemic with empirical investigation with Twitter data. In the next section to introduce conceptual background, theories on negative events in marketing and crisis management will be discussed to enhance our understanding of reimagined brand messages for digital transformation and crisis management. Then, the methods part will include data collection and analysis as well as discussion to advance the theoretical understanding with empirical examination. Finally, implications and future research will be provided to improve theories and practices to help reimagine brand strategies with digital transformation and crisis management.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emotion: A mental state about feelings.

Crisis Management: Managerial processes to identify crisis issues and implement plans to cope with a negative event.

Brand Transgression: A brand’s moral violation to against a consumer’s expectations.

Service Failure: A disruption of service does not meet a consumer’s expectations.

Hierarchical Clustering: Euclidean distance-based grouping techniques on data points to identify within-group similarities and between-group differences.

BRAND: A set of unique, strong, and favorable associations in one’s mind.

Product Harm: A product’s defect and danger to a consumer.

Sentiment Analysis: A method to extract emotion information from text data.

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