Johnny Rockets finds its sea legs aboard Royal Caribbean ships

Posted on Thu Jan 21 2010

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While brands duke it out to occupy the best of a dwindling supply of A-list retail locations here on terra firma, one family-restaurant chain has soundly out-sited its every competitor. How? By going to sea. For the last decade, the Lake Forest, Calif.-based retro-diner chain Johnny Rockets has been gradually setting up shop on a fleet of cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean. We're not talking about licensed burgers on room-service menus, here. These are actual, freestanding restaurants, usually located on one of the upper decks toward the stern. To date, the chain has opened 10 of them. (Go to to see a list of the vessels.) The open-air locations allow the chain to feature both outdoor and indoor seating, and sport the façade and signage akin to ordinary sidewalk locations. Similarities aside, these floating restaurants are a world apart from their land-based brethren. Below, some branding pros and cons of serving burgers at sea:
  • A captive audience in the most literal sense imaginable.
  • Sunset views sure beat what locations in Illinois can offer.
  • No worries about a competing chain opening up just across the shuffleboard deck.
  • A meal at Johnny's isn't included in the cruise ticket; these burgers are "extra-fare."
  • If bad weather hits and the ship starts to roll, nobody's eating a damn thing.
  • Occasional lifeboat drills can really kill a festive mood.
  Aside from a few limited-time promos, Johnny corporate hasn't sought much press attention for these locations since the first one opened back in 2000, but maybe that's because they don't want to encourage imitators. After all, vacation blogs speak of lines forming outside the units, and when BrandFreak reached Johnny Rockets' vp of communications to ask if there were plans to open any more oceangoing grills, we were told: "Yes, as many as we can."

—Posted by Robert Klara

Carnival Cruise Lines and Arnold are bringing the sea to the city

Posted on Tue Mar 10 2009

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Walk around any major city right now, and you're likely to notice something: a hell of a lot of abandoned storefronts. But where you and I might see the signs of a prolonged economic downturn, Arnold and Carnival Cruise Lines see an opportunity. The ad agency and its client, which turned heads with their big balls last year, are now rolling out virtual aquariums in Baltimore, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. The computer-animated aquariums are designed to engage passersby who presumably will be tickled by Carnival's thoughtfulness. The cruise line hopes pedestrians linger a while and whip out their mobile phones, which they can use to create their own personalized fish. Hey, why not? Free entertainment, right? The idea, like so much electronic outdoor media these days, is not only to hawk the product (in this case, cruises to warmer locales) but to "engage." Beats looking at graffiti-ed plywood in any case.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Carnival counting on big balls to make impression with cruisers

Posted on Wed Dec 31 2008

You've got to applaud Carnival Cruise Lines for taking an unexpected approach in its latest marketing.
  Ad agency Arnold, which featured the standard fun-and-sun imagery for years when it handled Royal Caribbean, takes a totally different approach here. The run-up to Carnival's big media buy (with ads breaking in earnest since Christmas) consisted mainly of stunt-marketing exercises with a giant piñata and a giant beach ball emerging as central icons.
  After building some buzz, footage from those events graces commercials that play down actual cruising, yet still manage to capture a sense of carefree and slightly irreverent fun. There's also the sight of a huge multicolored inflatable ball bounce around the concrete canyons of landlocked downtown Dallas—surprising imagery that might just keep some viewers from turning away.
  It should also tip the scales against Dallas as a rival getaway option, if only because the place seems filled with unstable, anti-social types who get off on pushing big balls from rooftops onto unsuspecting passersby below.

—Posted by David Gianatasio



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