The MSC Cruise Lines

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

2 October 2017

MSC Cruise Lines

MSC Cruise Line is making a big enough spend on US television that I have seen its commercials numerous times. The problem is the NAME. I could not remember it well enough to Google it. Was it MCS? CMS? Nope MSC.



Rebranding any company with initials like MSC Cruise Line is never a good idea


MSC Cruise Lines Achille LauroIt requires memorization. Unless you know the actual name. Initials are not intuitive. As a result, they are difficult to remember.

As soon as I looked MSC Cruise Line up, I realized why the initials (not an acronym) came to be.

The cruise company’s name is Mediterranean Shipping Company. Sounds as if passengers are just cargo. Instead of state rooms, the guests live in stacked containers.

“Brand names should have meaning. Not just a mixture of letters. And, if you are using an acronym, make sure it is a meaning you covet.”

But wait. The story is interesting.

MSC Cruise LineMSC Cruise Line went through a rebranding once before (OK, an acquisition). And it needed a new name. Anyone guess the original name?

Here is a hint. If you were alive in the 1980s you know the name. Your cerebral cortex has a tattoo of it.

Mediterranean Shipping Company bought Achille Lauro

MSC Cruise Lines Achille Lauro killingsThat’s right, that Achille Lauro. The famous ship hijacked by Palestinian terrorists when sailing from Italy to Egypt. (Read about the hijacking here.

Now just to be fair, Achille Lauro was a ship and a company. Owned by the Italian magnate of the same name. He loves himself so much he named the ship after himself. A company was not enough.

And the Achille Lauro had a tempestuous past and a terrible future. The ship, according to records, survived two devastating run-ins with other ships. In the truest meaning of the words.

Don’t blame MSC

MSC Cruise Lines Achille Lauro burning

Achille Lauro caught on fire and sank

The MSC Cruise Line had nothing to do with that history. It was not involved when the infamous ship finally caught fire and sank.

MSC Cruise Line had nothing to do with the report that the fire started from an errant cigarette either. Turned out, it caught fire from an explosion in one of the boilers.

But MSC is certainly to blame for a terrible BRAND name.

And yet, rebranding and renaming is not unfamiliar to them.

It is a crowded category

The cruise category is highly competitive. Especially if we include the river cruise business. And we should. It is the traveler not the venue that matters. For those that love cruising, there is something nice having about your hotel room follow you from place to place.

MSC Cruise Lines

Who has the worst branded name in the category? MSC is one. Can you spot the other?

I’m not an avid cruise passenger

MSC Cruise LinesI’m not really a cruiser (to coin a term). I prefer a bit of dirt under my fingernails. My experience on cruising means tons of mediocre food. Second-rate entertainment and thousands of dollars in off-ship excursions. And tipping enough people to man a private cruise.

But I’m a brand guy. And I know about naming, meaning and preference. (Read a study we wrote on tourism marketing here.)

MSC hits most of my hot buttons

It feels as if MSC Cruise Line reads my mind. It talks about quality of food, specialness of passengers and an international passenger list. But the name. The cruise line should know better. This is not even branding 101. It’s Marketing 1 in elementary school.


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