Cruising Into Uncharted Waters

9 April 2018

Mekong Kingdoms is boldly going where no cruise company has gone before. Crafting ‘not for your grandmother’ cruises, these mavericks of the Mekong came to QUO to help them explore new frontiers of bespoke luxury cruising.

Part of QUO’s branding challenge was to shift the perception that cruising is the sole domain of retirees. We had to create a brand for Mekong Kingdoms built up around the mystique and magic of the Mekong, that communicated the contemporary luxury of its fleet and that conveyed bespoke aspirational experiences that go beyond the usual temple visits and sunset tours.

 
Strategy and Brand Culture

An Unapologetic Maverick in the Exotic Wilds

QUO’s strategy and Brand Culture for Mekong Kingdoms carved out a fresh, bold identity with more than a little leeway for spontaneity. Appealing to “charismatic achievers yearning to cast off into the exotic wilds”, the brand culture dreamed up a new expression of river cruising that is “steeped in a blend of local mystique and stylish ambiance.” With the mission of surprising and captivating travellers with this heady mix of nature, art and culture, this imaginative new brand is a true free spirit – an unapologetic maverick of the Upper Mekong.

 
Naming

Mekong Kingdoms already had a company name, but they still needed names for their fleet. With six boats in total, each needed a name that not only reflected the brand culture but that fit into a cohesive family and somewhat reflected the purpose of each individual boat. We came up with several ‘routes’ to choose from, each tapping into a different element of the brand and its products, from local history and sailing to nature and adventure. Eventually, Mekong Kingdoms chose the set of names below:

Gypsy – an exclusive luxury vessel for 2- and 3-day cruises
Bohème – a large, multi-cabin luxury cruiser
Play – a sophisticated lounge boat for private charter
Monsoon – ‘the Mekong’s sexiest shuttle’ for private day charter
Nomad – a petite river taxi boat

Boat names had to capture the brand's stylish and contemporary attitude to cruising.

 
Visual Identity

Paying Homage to Local History

With rich local culture and history to draw upon, QUO’s design team created a logo that pays homage both to the ancient kingdoms of Northern Thailand and Laos, and to the art of sailing.

The main Mekong Kingdoms logo takes inspiration from the patterns of ancient Lanna, fashioned in the shape of an anchor, with ‘arms’ reminiscent of sirens’ tails. This symbol was extended across the entire fleet of boats, with the vessels’ names situated beneath. To help Mekong Kingdoms get ‘on board’ with the new logo, we printed out some temporary tattoos of the symbol on its own.

Instead of cabin names, QUO designed room numbers in ancient Lanna style, using a customised Laos/Thai script.

 
Brand Voice

New Kid on the Dock

To give this free spirit a voice far removed from what your regular river cruise company sounds like, QUO’s editorial team came up with a voice that established Mekong Kingdoms as the “new kid on the dock”. Using rich language to convey the locale’s exotic natural allure and some bold quips and hyperbole to communicate the brand’s swash-buckling maverick qualities, the result is a voice that can wax lyrical about the Mekong while simultaneously inviting you to “float on the wild side”.

Mock-up of a boarding pass

 
Collateral

Cruisers are just like floating hotels – they need a lot of collateral. With Visual Identity Guidelines for the brand in place, QUO started putting the elements into practice, creating a slew of items that ranged from stationery to slippers.

 
Website

Mixing Art and Commerce

Last but definitely not least, we got to work on the website. QUO’s Head of Digital Benjawan ‘Bee’ Intrasuwan says that there were two phases of website design – the first more artsy, before changing tack to something more functional.

“The original concept aimed to attract creative, artistic types by looking very different to other websites. Some elements of this design concept remain, such as the unusual white strip at the bottom, which evokes a boat moving through the water.”

The second phase of website development went in “a new direction, changing the user experience and user interface to help the marketing reach and direct website sales.” The end result is a beautiful, visually rich website that lets users book effortlessly from any page.

Check out the QUO-created ‘beta’ version of the Mekong Kingdoms website at Mekong Kingdoms, and for the full version including design examples, check out our work on the blog. QUO continues to work closely with Mekong Kingdoms and Minor Hotels on further website development and marketing collateral for this exciting new brand.