Students Help Royal Caribbean Cruise into New Markets

What happens when you ask a group of first-time marketing students to develop fresh ideas for an international cruise company's marketing plans? TikTok dances, Buzzfeed quizzes and influencer marketing, of course.

But students who joined Cheryl Lin’s Marketing Management 220 course didn’t rely merely on trends. Lin, a visiting associate professor in Markets & Management Studies, took students through the process of designing market research, characterizing customer segments, and creating promotional campaigns, with assistance from executives at McKinney, and prepared them to address the misperceptions of cruising head-on.

students giving presentations in marketing course
Students presented their marketing plans to representatives from Royal Caribbean and McKinney in Spring 2023. (John West/ Trinity Communications)

Cruise lines aren’t known for marketing toward a younger demographic, and their reputation during the height of the coronavirus years made them an interesting client for students to work with. Knowing that this would be a great way for her students to gain hands-on marketing experience, Lin connected her students with leaders in Royal Caribbean with the charge to create marketing plans targeting different groups.

laptop showing slides for student presentation
(John West/Trinity Communications)

Most of the students in the course had never been on a cruise yet expressed an interest in the cruise industry. They quickly learned that working in new industries is part of the job for marketers so, over the course of a few months, they became cruise line enthusiasts.

“I was a bit surprised that none of the students had taken a cruise before,” said Lin. “But when you work with clients, you can’t really pick and choose what you want to market or not to market.”

Over the course of the semester, students worked with the McKinney representatives to create and fine-tune marketing plans that they then presented to the Royal Caribbean executives.

“Before developing the campaign, they went out and collected data either through interviews or surveys. And then from there, they analyzed and interpreted the data to identify their target customers, their needs, their preferences, what may attract them, what they're looking for, their communication channels, and where to reach them,” Lin explained.

MMS 220 course
Lin invited guests to offer feedback on students’ final presentations, including Mike Morse, Vice President of The Link Group. (John West/Trinity Communications)

“I tried to push them a little to not just survey Duke students but go outside of their comfort zone and talk to real customers.”

By the end of the semester, both Lin and the marketing executives were impressed with the plans that students had developed.

Lin, who has been teaching in the Markets & Management Studies program for over 15 years, is always looking for new products and projects for her students to work with in semester-long projects. She works with different companies every year, including Big Spoon Roasters, Purell, Fiat and Travelocity.

Typically offered in the spring, this course is one of many popular marketing courses in the Markets & Management Studies program. Like many certificate courses, Lin’s course aims to help students hone their practical marketing skills in a tangible way that they can use after leaving Duke.

Lin also co-directs the Policy and Organizational Management Program, an interdisciplinary, research and executive development program working primarily with public leaders nationally and internationally.

Over the course of her time at Duke, she has seen students in both programs grow and shift in how they identify with marketing.

MMS 220 course
(John West/Trinity Communications)

“There are definitely more and more students interested in marketing,” Lin says. “It's not necessarily just advertising agencies; all companies, no matter what industry, need some form of marketing.”

Lin’s Marketing 220 course will be offered again in Spring 2024. For more information about this course and a full list of spring courses, visit the Markets & Management course page.