Author Topic: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough  (Read 6075 times)

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Offline Michael Gallagher


Kingsley Manton and Palmer (KMP Partnership) took over the Cunard advertising account in 1966.

Up until the launch of the main advertising campaign, the codename ‘Q4’ and later her name, ‘QE2’, had been cleverly used in various materials from first day covers to stationery. The stylised ‘Q4’ had been the work of Cunard Typographer N J Butterworth who signed over the copyright for the logo to Cunard in August 1967.

In order to sell the message of QE2’s modernity to as wide a public as possible (this was, after all, a national ship), Cunard also employed Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes, the multi-disciplinary design agency masterminded by the architect Theo Crosby. The result was a marketing and advertising campaign the like of which had never been seen before for the introduction of a new ship which produced the provocative slogan:

‘Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough’.

Other lines were horrified by what they regarded as “knocking copy” at both themselves and the industry.

One ‘Ships Have Been boring Long Enough’ advert proclaimed: "For years, ships have been boring their way across the seas. Now, Cunard has launched the ultimate weapon against boredom at sea. The QE2. The New Queen Elizabeth 2. The only thing QE2 has in common with other ships is that she floats. The only thing she has in common with other great Cunarders is a legend called service.  Stepping aboard her is like stepping 20 years into the future. Whatever your preconceptions about her, she's bound to take you by surprise".

KMP’s David Kingsley was unrepentant and maintained that it stirred up so much interest that the effect was beneficial. Certainly all the ads were noted and quoted and he also cited the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) Conference at which shipping was a centre of conversation for the first time in years.

The first QE2 brochure to be released stated confidently that:  “Whatever your preconceptions about QE2, she’s bound to take you by surprise. It’s like climbing into the most exciting thing to be launched since Apollo 1… With QE2’s push-button bedrooms, high up dining rooms, pop groups and cabaret artists, discotheques, acres of open deck, swimming pools, bars and shopping centre, Cunard have introduced a completely new way of thinking about cruise ships… The QE2 concept is a leisure that is not just relaxing but stimulating too!”

Much emphasis was placed on promoting the ship as a relaxing leisure environment and although, when operating in trans-Atlantic service there were discrete class divisions, these were barely mentioned in the brochure imagery and texts. Instead, the liner was advertised, in a promotional book called ‘Pleasure Island’, as being:  “…A moving experience. Taking you gently from place to place. Through sun, sea and air. Into lazy, languid days and cool, moonlit evenings. A Pleasure island… to indulge yourself, as you leisurely drift from place to place”.

And what a radical change of direction by Cunard this all was. It had been operating its pre-war art deco outdated liners in a post war era and had never claimed the Queens, Caronia or Mauretania to be “boring”.

Design Centre Exhibition

On 21 February 1968 the first glimpses of the interior of QE2 were given at a special exhibition which opened that day at the Design Centre in Haymarket, London. The exhibition was opened the previous evening by Princess Margaret and included full-size mock-ups of two cabins and illustrated with diagrams and models and photographs how the restaurants, bars, lounges and other sections of the ship would look. Examples of the tableware, furniture, carpets, furnishing fabrics, wall coverings and other products to be used on the liner, as well as specially developed sign posting and graphics system, were also displayed. The exhibition ran until 23 March and was arranged jointly by Cunard and the Council of Industrial Design.

Autumn 1968 onwards

The second stage in the build-up was advertisements that said there were only two places left to visit – the moon and the ship. And the moon reappeared in the early advertisements for the sailing schedule when potential customers were told “Why ask for the moon. Who needs it? QE2 is sailing and if you’re interested at all in what 20th Century man has achieved, you can, you must sail in her”.

And sail in her people would if the selling effort to travel agents was anything to go by (to say nothing of the unique status and novelty value that QE2 would have for some time). This was a key element that Cunard had to establish itself with agencies in a way it had not had not done before, for it used to have its own offices but by the late 1960s it was working almost entirely through the travel men.

Cunard held evening gatherings for travel agents up and down the country – entertaining 3,000 individuals at over 40 meetings in the autumn of 1968 alone – at which a 20-minute film formed part of the sales presentation.

Travel agents had a lot of pluses to work for according to Cunard research people saw cruises – which would form a large part of the ship’s schedule – as a good way of visiting a lot of places and a good method of sampling those places for future holidays. Cruises were also felt to be a different form of holiday and that they offered a simple way of meeting people with similar tastes and interests. There was, of course, the other side of the coin (and this was a factor in the informal hotel advertising approach) that some saw cruising as a snobby in-group activity with lots of exclusiveness.

Cunard sent editorials to newspapers, particularly the traveltrade publications, that extolled the virtues of this new “ship for all seasons”, this “sea-going resort city” that was “a totally new concept in vacations”. One went as far as to claim that she was “the most exciting thing since Apollo 1”.

Even the photos in brochures and advertisements were shaped like the windows on Quarter and Upper Decks.

When appearing in brochures alongside the dated Carmania and Franconia the claims for QE2 were toned down a little – perhaps not to show her fleetmates, who were from the same era and design as the Cunarders now termed “boring” by Cunard – in too bad a light.

Cunard’s refusal to accept delivery as planned in December 1968 and the subsequent cancellation of QE2’s announced programme of maiden voyages between January and April 1969 resulted in the costs of the expensive ad campaign for the ships introduction and these inaugural voyages having to be written off. The Cunard Report of the Directors dated 15 May 1969 stated:
“The Board has decided not to carry forward the abortive advertising costs and agents’ commission incurred in 1968 and the other costs referred to, altogether some £778,000, to be recouped out of subsequent revenue”.

A “big noise fast” became the agreed policy for advertising QE2 as soon as it became clear in March / April 1969 that the campaign could begin.

The original starting date, 24 January 1969, had to be suspended but once a Handover Date had been established the programme – costing £150,000 – could go forward. The reasons for the “big noise” included establishing the ship as real and sailing and to show what she was like inside, a job that would have been covered by editorial features in colour magazines.

This meant bringing forward ‘The Great One between London and New York’ theme and eliminating the initial ads for the Maiden cruise programme. In the build up to the 2 May sailing colour pages (as well as black and white ads) were used wherever possible with the aim of getting full impact for the pictures of the interior.

The whole aim of the publicity was to market the ship as a place and an experience – certainly not as transport. Although the new ads were selling sailings now references in them to voyages or distances were relatively few. All the emphasis was on ‘QE2 Style’ and the ship’s value in terms of money, as well as amenities as a hotel or even resort.

Examples of the way in which the company and its advertising agency struck out for a new style occurred in the colour ads. QE2, they stated, has “Our law of supply and demand. Whatever you demand we supply”. Then, “There’s our Law of Gravity. It’s a crime to be grave in QE2”. And again, “Inhibitions are strictly for dry land, so swing”.

In April 1969 the latest brochure issued consisted was a poster leaflet of 181 pictures – the hotel-resort atmosphere was carried through by a wide variety of shots. Naturally these included swimming, sunbathing, dancing and eating and drinking – all activities being enjoyed by youngsters and young parents. Some pictures were views from the ship – as one would have views from a hotel and others made use of the ship’s architectural features such as the mast. This brochure was used both in consumer advertising and in a driver through travel agencies to the public. It went out in Britain, the US and in three languages in Europe.

Just as the advertising got a lot of extra mileage out of the novelty value of the new ship so did Cunard’s own PR department. Maiden Voyages naturally present the greatest opportunities and, under Colin Norton Smith, came such events as the unveiling of the model of the ship in April 1967 (her shape having previously been a secret), launch by HM The Queen (a great success in PR terms) in September 1967 and a film for TV (‘Magic Ride’). His team was faced with linking the wave of nostalgia for Queen Mary with the beginning of the new era. The main outlets for PR were the press and TV but hundreds of letters and telephone calls came in every week from groups such as schools. Priorities, however, had to be laid down and some questioners had to be turned away.

And the whole early publicity programme was keyed to taking advantage of the interest the big ship aroused. As Colin Norton Smith stated: “The bigger the bang the bigger the echoes”.


As early as 1966 Cunard had made arrangements for the appointment of a Merchandise Agents, Peter Barker Ltd (UK) and Worldwide Licensing (USA), to initiate and administer the widespread use of licences to manufacture for public sale commercial goods associated with the name of the then (unnamed) new ship, such as souvenirs, fashion, fabrics, toys and children’s goods. The physical side of the merchandising was done by the Peter Barker firm but the administration was handled by Cunard’s sales side. The company had not benefitted financially through the manufacture of hundreds of different gifts related to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth – in fact Cunard had paid to have such items such as Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary pencils but the company was determined this time to benefit and get a commission on such items.

Cunard would draw a royalty of two to three per cent on the sale of all such goods, thereby obtaining revenue in addition to a great number of free publicity outlets available to the company. In addition Cunard would have access to many items useful for their own publicity purposes at minimum cost. The design of merchandising as very closely watched over – after all it had to match the ABC1 buying classes to whom Cunard was advertising.

The company had already received many enquiries for permission to produce cut-out models, wall charts, souvenir books etc and all of these could be bought into the scope of licensed activity.

The Q4 and then QE2 logos would eventually appear on James Buchanan’s specially-blended whisky, biscuit tins, jigsaw puzzles (130,000 sold before they were on the market), toys, pencils, books, confectionery, stationery and fabrics. Cunard claimed that they would consider the granting of a licence for any kinds of manufactured article.

Companies were also urged to showcase their products in one of the 49 showcases to be built on the ship and by June 1968, 24 British and seven American companies, with products ranging from cars to perfume to fabrics and antique silver, had done so.

‘The Greatest Ship in the World’

After entering service brochure covers and other promotional material proclaimed QE2 at ‘The Greatest Ship in the World’. This was actually trademarked and used for most of the 1970s.
« Last Edit: Dec 01, 2011, 07:58 PM by Rob Lightbody »

Offline QE2forever

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Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #1 on: Dec 01, 2011, 02:59 PM »
Wow, fantastic read, thank you!

I am impressed, so many interesting details and anecdotes.

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #2 on: Dec 01, 2011, 05:00 PM »
Thanks Flagship for such a fascinating and informative post. 

She was young and vibrant when she was ready for her maiden cruise in the "swinging 60's" and I can imagine that the marketing people must have been delighted that because she was so modern and with the changing to lifestyles in the 1960's they had plenty of scope to produce excellent marketing material.   
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Offline CAP

Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #3 on: Dec 01, 2011, 08:13 PM »
Excellent article.

I think the early marketing work is also a reflection of Smallpeice's impact on the company as a whole. 

Offline Michael Gallagher

Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #4 on: Dec 01, 2011, 08:22 PM »
Sir Basil Smallpeice = a hero of mine.

Offline Rob Lightbody

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Passionate about QE2's service life for 40 years and creator of this website.  I have worked in IT for 28 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Rod

Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #6 on: Sep 04, 2012, 10:04 PM »
A lot of people "poo-pood Basil Smallpieces affect on Cunard. If it was not for him, I probably would have spent 20 years on Canberra! Cunard would have ceased to exist!

Offline CAP

Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #7 on: Sep 05, 2012, 06:56 AM »
A lot of people "poo-pood Basil Smallpieces affect on Cunard. If it was not for him, I probably would have spent 20 years on Canberra! Cunard would have ceased to exist!

Rod, if you haven't already his autobiography, "Of Comets and Queens" gives you an interesting insight into the company he eventually took control of.

Offline Rod

Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #8 on: Sep 05, 2012, 10:32 AM »
Thanks CAP

Offline Michael Gallagher

Re: Marketing the 'new' QE2: Ships Have Been Boring Long Enough
« Reply #9 on: Sep 06, 2012, 04:37 PM »
Sir Basil Smallpeice - one of the greatest men who ever lived (in my opinion)


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