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Behind ‘Nauticode’ and MRM’s American Queen rebrand for a modern tourism industry


By Awards Analyst, writer

December 5, 2022 | 4 min read

American Queen needed to evolve for a new age of tourism. MRM helped it get there with 'Nauticode', and took home the gong for Best Response to Change for its trouble at The Drum Awards for B2B. Here, we find out more about what went into this successful work.


MRM rebranded American Queen as Nauticode

Following an acquisition by its parent firm, iconic cruise brand American Queen needed to rebrand and relaunch into the market. But the pandemic prevented any activity that wasn’t aimed at survival. This B2B campaign from MRM New York helped get the American Queen to navigate the challenges posed by Covid in the travel sector.

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The brief

American Queen’s parent company, Hornblower Group, acquired Victory Cruise Lines, triggering the need for rebranding. Meanwhile, the expectations of B2B buyers (travel agents, travel management companies and leisure operators) were shifting. They sought to offer not just river cruises but journeys on lakes and oceans.

Following the pandemic, As travelers began to come back, it was clear they weren’t seeking a return, but rather an exploration of new experiences. MRM was tasked with a rebrand that would meet each of these needs.

The idea

‘Nauticode’ deconstructed the most iconic part of the American Queen’s identity, the paddlewheel. Driven by nautical data, every American Queen experience would alter the design based on the boat’s movements, ports and times at port. Individual destinations add artifacts — maybe a physical postcard, maybe a digital souvenir – based on dynamic data feeding the design system literally as you cruise.

The idea was to provide a new brand that reflected not just the means of the journey, but its different stopovers. Nauticode was an experience that American Queen’s B2B audience of travel buyers knew could hold great appeal for travelers.

The results

The launch of 'Nauticode' broke American Queen’s single-day booking record, surpassing the previous high mark by 10%.

People were talking about Nauticode, too: Facebook impressions improved by 68%. These results are particularly impressive given that travel growth was dampened by the pandemic. The work also earned media attention, giving new visibility for the brand.

Nauticode increased travel advisor inquiries by 20% and triggered more consumer requests for information than at any other point in the company’s history. Nauticode transformed a brand that had been stuck in time and in place, bringing into a bright, modern future.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for B2B 2022. You can see all the winners here. The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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