Royal Caribbean wanted some viral press, so they did something that goes a little past the line where ethical marketing meets shameless bribery.
They started by doing a little research into who was already saying good things about them on websites like Cruise Critic. They found 50 individuals and invited them to be “Royal Champions,” or, as MSNBC calls them, “paid cheerleaders.” These individuals need not have ever set foot on a cruise ship; they just had to be big fans of the Royal Caribbean line. They were monitored for frequency of posting and brand positivity.
“Royal Champions were rewarded with all-expense paid pre-inaugural sailings along with invites to events and cocktail parties hosted by Royal Caribbean executives.” – MSNBC
Um, how do I get on that list? Wait! Wait! No, that would be unethical!
Or would it? I mean, as an online writer, don’t I review products I get for free? Doesn’t a company have every right to read what I’ve posted online and decide whether or not it would be worth it for them to send me a product to review? And if they notice that I totally give great reviews of Nancy Gonzalez purses all the time and decide to send me a free Nancy Gonzalez purse, knowing that I’ll totally write about it … well, is that wrong? That’s how the media industry has worked for years. The line between advertising and genuine product reviews has always been blurry.
I guess the whole monitoring thing is a little creepy. Just be careful; when you hear a friend on a message board plugging a certain company or product — they may not be on the payroll, but they could well be on the perk-roll.