Brands making a splash this May

Beyoncé loves Levi's, plus a TikTok-famous cruise.
Research

In this edition of Stagwell Marketing Cloud x QuestBrand’s monthly brand report, we’ll be looking at how TikTok drama fueled interest in Royal Caribbean cruises, and how a nod from Beyonce lifted the profile of Levi’s.

Every month, we take brand data from QuestBrand, a real-time brand management software tool, and highlight the brands you should have on your radar.  

Let’s set sail.

Royal Caribbean

In the news

Would you pay over $100,000 to go on a 274-night, 60+ country cruise?

Even if I had a spare suitcase of cash lying around, I’d probably decline.

Then again, my opinions on cruises are cobbled together from that famous David Foster Wallace essay; the movie Triangle of Sadness; and an excursion I took to Bermuda back in college, where my four-person cabin was roughly the size of a Port-a-John.

To each his own, though! There were certainly some folks willing to make this 9-month cruise commitment, which Royal Caribbean launched early in December 2023.

  • The brand’s epic outing (priced between $53,999 and $117,599) was an IRL adventure, but the real waves were made on social media.
  • TikTok’s interest in cruise news was intense, with the hashtag #RoyalCaribbeanUltimateWorldCruise garnering more than 54.8 million views on the platform by December 22, cresting to nearly 100 million views by mid-February 2024.

This isn’t too surprising. People love to gossip about strangers... especially when those strangers have done something like drop $100,000 on a luxury boat trip that lasts so long “you could go on this ship not pregnant and have a baby by the end of the cruise,” as one Redditer noted.

But beyond creating viral moments and a bit of Schadenfreude, did this TikTok-fueled publicity have any effect on Royal Caribbean’s brand visibility?

Real-time data

Looking at data from QuestBrand by The Harris Poll, we can track a bump in TikTok users’ interest in Royal Caribbean in the last quarter of 2023.

Brand familiarity

While familiarity increased among the general population of US adults in December, the percentage more significantly jumped among TikTok users (defined here as US adults who had used TikTok within the past 30 days).

At the beginning of November, TikTok users’ familiarity with the Royal Caribbean brand stood at 60.6. By the middle of December, Royal Caribbean’s familiarity score leapt to 73.3 among this demographic.

Positive consideration

Simply having heard about Royal Caribbean from a few viral videos might not be a big deal, but Royal Caribbean also enjoyed an increase in positive consideration, especially among TikTok users, during this same period.

TikTok users’ positive consideration of the cruise brand peaked in mid-December 2023, during the first buzzy month of the Ultimate World Cruise, but it remained elevated into Q1 of 2024.

That’s good news if Royal Caribbean aims to convert a younger generation of cruisers who are eager to set sail (and post about it).

Positive consideration of the brand also lifted among TikTok users once the gossipy ship left its Miami port on December 10.

TikTok users’ usage of positive terms to describe Royal Caribbean ticked up: “Stylish” (+11.2), “Practical” (+10.0), “Good Value” (+7.0), and “Trustworthy” (+7.0).

Top-line takeaway

No matter how savvy a marketer you are, it’s impossible to plan guaranteed viral moments. (That said, there’s some tips to follow if you want to increase your chances.)

The buzz around the Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise had a clear impact on brand equity—in this case, a mostly positive one.

TikTok voyeurs who treated this 9-month excursion as an unscripted reality show did their (unpaid) part to boost the brand’s visibility.

That said, this spotlight of attention could have gone horribly wrong if, say, a hundred people had gotten food poisoning from the midnight buffet. Just imagine those hashtags.

Read the full Royal Caribbean case study.

Levi’s

Both images of Beyoncé courtesy Raph_PH

In the news

When someone famous name checks your product or brand—in an organic, unsponsored way—marketers start cracking open the champagne.

When that someone famous is Beyoncé, they’re upgrading to the top-shelf stuff.

When Beyoncé doesn’t just mention your brand in a tweet or an interview, but instead crafts an entire song around it...well, then your marketing team can simply die and go to heaven.

On March 29th, 2024, Beyoncé dropped her country-inflected album, Cowboy Carter, which includes the track “Levii’s Jeans” (a collaboration with Post Malone). Some of the lyrics are a bit NSFW, but lines like “Oh, you wish you were my Levi's jeans / way it’s poppin’ our your phone / love you down to the bone” should give you an idea.

“The track name intentionally misspells the brand name, presumably to avoid any fallout with the actual brand,” Creative Bloq notes. “But it turns out that the real Levi's is more than happy with the reference.”

More than happy indeed. Levi’s leaned into the song’s call-out, temporarily changing their Instagram and TikTok account logos to “Levii’s” to mirror the song title. They also tucked a bee emoji into their account description, a sly reference to the singer’s hardcore stans, the Beyhive.

That’s great and all, but a single pop song wouldn’t have too much of a brand bump...right?

Don’t underestimate the fierce power of Queen Bey. After “Levii’s Jeans’” release, the brand’s stock jumped 20%, and Levi’s experienced a 20% increase in foot traffic in their US stores.

This isn’t too shocking when we consider how ubiquitous Beyoncé is in American culture right now, per some enlightening data from a recent Harris Poll survey:

  • Six-in-ten Americans (58%), and 70% of Gen Zers, consider themselves Beyoncé fans.
  • Almost one-fifth (19%) of Gen Z consider themselves to be members of the Beyhive.
  • Half (48%) of Gen Z say they would be willing to give up alcohol for a year to have a night out with Beyoncé.
  • More than a quarter of Gen Z (26%) say they would be willing to miss a family member’s wedding (!) for a night out with Beyoncé.

Real-time data

Looking at data from QuestBrand by The Harris Poll, we can track the impact of “Levii’s Jeans” on Levi’s brand.

Funnel magic

If we compare Levi’s conversion funnel among Gen Z adults before and after the release of Cowboy Carter, we see that after the album release, Gen Zers significantly more often report trying (+11.0) or using (+7.0) the Levi’s brand.

Brand associations & emotional attributes

Evidently the right song can change your whole attitude.

  • While 14.6% of Gen Z described Levi’s as “young” in early January, this rose to a high of 24.9% in April. That’s a big deal if you’re in the fashion world and eager to associate your legacy brand with youth culture.
  • When we compare the other emotional attributes Gen Z ascribes to Levi’s pre (1/1/24-3/18/24) versus post (3/29/24-5/16/24) album release, Gen Z significantly more often described Levi’s as “stylish” (+8.4), “smart” (+8.2), and “trustworthy” (+6.6) after March 29th.

Top-line takeaways

Much like Royal Caribbean’s unexpected boost from TikTok, it’s not possible to engineer a celebrity endorsement like “Levii’s Jeans.” (An obviously paid sponsorship would never have the same bite.)

That said, brands can learn from Levi’s example in terms of how they leveraged the song’s popularity in fairly subtle ways, like tweaking their social profiles to nod to Beyoncé’s enormous fan base.

Read the full Levi's case study.

Scott Indrisek

Scott Indrisek is the Senior Editorial Lead at Stagwell Marketing Cloud

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