The Challenge

Carnival Cruises needed to commission a brand audit for the P&O Cruises brand. The UK cruise market and passenger base was changing with the arrival of competitors, an increasingly diverse target audience (with correspondingly diverse expectations). In that context, the brand needed a qualitative research and semiotics deep dive in order to find out what P&O stands for and how those impressions might be formed.

Semiotic Role

The semiotic role was to undertake an audit of P&O brand communications from brochure and online to TV communication to determine the composite brand image. Additionally the semiotics work surveyed the competitive set and the codes of the ‘cruising sector’ versus travel and tourism and holiday communication codes. We were also tasked with assessing the type of British identity embodied by the brand.


The semiotics research revealed a cruise sector languishing into code convergence with certain recurrent visual clichés (sunsets, looking out to sea etc) across brands. It revealed P&O using codes of sedentary routine rather than adventure or wanderlust in contrast to premium brands such as Royal Caribbean. Furthermore, P&O Cruises communicated an insular, stuffy, somewhat exclusionary version of Britishness. This led to recommendations that the brand used to create a fresh “This is the Life” Campaign. The campaign has proven hugely successful for P&O Cruises and has delivered year-on-year growth for three years running in terms of driving up passenger bookings and revenue.