Club Med is about to replace the tanning oil with sunscreen.
The resort vacation operator, which turns a middle-aged 40 next year, plans to unveil a $25-million advertising campaign next month that replaces the striking bathing beauties of the past with middle-aged vacation goers, and yes, even families.
"We're not having an identity crisis," said Bob Schu, executive vice president of marketing at Club Med Sales, the U.S. arm of the French-owned company. "But we are taking an aggressive posture to debunk the myth that Club Med is only for beautiful people."
Club Med's familiar slogan "the antidote for civilization," will remain, but just about everything else about its ad campaign will change. For the first time, its television commercials will show families with their children at Club Med resorts. A print ad will feature a black couple vacationing at a Club Med resort, the first time blacks have been featured in the Club Med campaign, according to executives.
The TV ads will air Labor Day weekend during the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, and the print ads also will begin appearing this fall.
Behind this about-face in Club Med marketing are several key factors. For one, Club Med's baby boom clientele is aging--and having families of its own. Also, there has recently been a hefty increase in competition in the whole business of resort vacation packages. Not only have a handful of competitors sprung up over the past decade, but the cruise lines have also aggressively cut into Club Med's business. Club Med says it plans to even begin a program of sailing cruises next year.
At the same time, Club Med says its sales have been flat over the past few years during a period in which it has spent nearly $370 million renovating older resorts and building new ones. Club Med owns 117 vacation "villages" in 26 countries.
"To come to Club Med, you don't have to have a beautiful body," said Schu. In fact, one of the new ads, created by the New York ad agency Ammirati & Puris, will feature a guy who spends most of his Club Med vacation time scarfing down food.
Another ad will show a middle-aged couple with their two teen-age children at a Club Med resort. And yet another commercial will feature two sisters in their 50s vacationing together at Club Med.
"Everyone has this idea that Club Med is for singles," said Mary Herrmann, senior vice president and group director at Ammirati & Puris. "What we're doing now is aggressively showing the broad range of people that come to Club Med."
But one expert says Club Med may be about three or four years late. "The market for the wild and swinging singles is dead," said James Pedrick, assistant professor of marketing at USC. "It will be very difficult for them to change their image, but what else can they do?"