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Seabourn’s New Marketing: Sexist, Offensive & Alienating

Seabourn announced that it has a new marketing I find seriously offensive and, to be sure, off-brand (or what Seabourn’s brand apparently used to be!).  In two decades in the business I have never seen anything like it…and hope I never do again!

The Good Old Days of Seabourn

Seabourn calls it “This Is Your Moment” and is focused on the alleged household decision-maker in the travel planning process; more specifically women over 50 who “can own, reinvent and follow their passions for their next act”

I am not sure if that means women who are recently divorced, unhappily married, happily single, or ????  Does it mean I somehow am to denigrate my focus on women that cannot or do not want to have a second act (the “play” is pretty damn good right now), who are already content with who they are, and are plenty passionate already?

Digging deeper, this marketing ‘er um “prowess” was the brainchild of Grace Creative, a Los Angeles-based firm that touts itself as follows: “Age. We own it.  Grace Creative is a woman owned marketing and advertising agency with a single mission. To activate the power of women over 50.  We embrace it. We celebrate it. And we respect the hell out of it.  You can’t own it any other way.” 

I find it absurd that Seabourn would use a marketing company that said its sole purpose is to empower women over 50 and expect a valid, challengeable, result.  This has been a recent – and very frustrating – part of Seabourn management: Get someone. Anyone! to agree with what you are pitching. Finding pushback rather than validation is supposed to be essential, but not at Seabourn!  (Remember what the recent court documents said?!)

What I do know is that I am very successfully marketing luxury cruises focusing on world travel, comfort, pampering, relaxation, and such. I also know that decision-making regarding a luxury cruise is not a societal statement as to the empowerment of women…unless you start looking at the captains, staff, crew, and executives of the cruise line and see progress there! 

Possibly more importantly, I perceive this focus – especially as aggressive as it is for a luxury product with a very diverse demographic – as sexist, alienating, and offensively insulting to the majority of Seabourn guests such as decades-long married (and happily balanced) heterosexual and gay couples and, of course, men – straight and gay – in general.  But give me a moment before I get into the specifics of that.

Also right up front, the idea that I should perceive a woman as a luxury client differently than a man, just because of her sex, is mind-boggling. Each person is different…and usually not merely because of their sex or sexual orientation.  But, according to Seabourn, my clients are to be treated (or marketed to) differently simply because they allegedly fit into a particular sex-oriented category!  It is antithetical to the concept that one should respect the human, not their asserted position!

What this tone-deaf concept also fails to recognize, among other things, is that the vast majority of Seabourn couples (gay and straight) in the 50+ age group include men who have been very successful in business and have more of a “take charge” view; approaches that do not lend them being happily and actively marginalized and told to sit in the backseat and unilaterally (or forced to) give up decisions to their partners.  And, trust me on this, it is not an issue of if their partners want to marginalize them, but rather the message that they are to be!

This overt marketing also is offensive to the gay community (I am using the word “gay” as broadly inclusive).  Some of the most loyal and prolific guests on Seabourn cruises are gay.  Seabourn’s messaging is clear that the focus is to be on marketing to women over 50 because that is where the money is.  Seriously, what world is Seabourn living in?  Gay couples generally have (or had before retirement) two incomes, no children and, thus, lots of time and money to travel. By the way, Seabourn hasn’t so overtly, if at all, marketed to the gay community that I am aware of.  

And, of course, if Seabourn wants to have marketing that focuses on 50+ empowered women that is fine, but subtle, in a non-alienating way, and as part of a multi-layered marketing program would seem to be more responsible…and less offensive.

Finally, while Seabourn points out in its new marketing that over 80% of travel agents are women, it seems to have somehow forgotten that some of its truly most prolific and productive travel agents (including me – until the blacklisting) are men; both straight and gay. 

You have choices with which luxury line you want align with. Just sayin’.

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