The I Ching, or Book of Changes, is a divination text inspiring the worlds of business, religion, psychology, philosophy, literature and art.

In my second post about business and communications trends, inspired by the Holmes Report’s Global PR Summit in October, I reported on Weber Shandwick President Gail Heimann and Excedrin Global Brand Lead Judy Berei, whose industry knowledge wafts from the world’s first brand, launched 2,000 years ago in the Roman Empire, to creating empathy using augmented reality. Here, you’ll learn from another woman bringing an equal level of historical wisdom to modern-day brand marketing —  Tracy Quan, assistant VP, global brand communications at Royal Caribbean. On the dais at the St. Regis Hotel Bal Harbour in Miami, the three women joined in a discussion entitled, “The Conundrum: Brands in Culture or Culture in Brands? A Meditation.”

Quan aptly began her answer to that question with insights from ancient Chinese philosophy. “Culture is the traditions, habits and values of a community, such as I Ching and Yin Yang,” she said, referring to the ancient text, the Book of Changes in English, whose 64 hexagrams continue to influence everyday life and decision making in China (and coincidentally, just last week, informed a discussion at Nova Southeastern University’s Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, whose exhibit “Frank Stella: Experiment and Change” begins November 12.)

Named one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International, Quan walked us through one of the year’s most memorable PR campaigns.

“Last year it struck us that the great American eclipse was happening and…people thought of all the options on land where they could see this phenomenon,” she said. “We realized the path of totality crossed into the Atlantic Ocean, which is exactly where all of our ships are. We thought, ‘How do we extend this two-minute and 40-second experience and make it a far bigger celebration than it is, and do it in the middle of the ocean? Wouldn’t it be an epic moment to have Bonnie Tyler at sea during the total eclipse itself?'”

She went on to say: “It took everyone from the culinary staff who created eclipse-themed menus to our activities staff who created science-enrichment lectures and trivia games that were related to the eclipse, and we even had our resident meteorologist onboard the ship to collaborate with the captain to ensure we had the best experience possible.”

Royal Caribbean Eclipses the Eclipse 

The announcement of Tyler’s appearance hit culture watchers like an asteroid filled with rocky road ice cream.

Consider the following reactions from three prominent journalists:

“Perfect marriage of pop and science.” — Rolling Stone’s Ryan Reed

“A universal pop song and the universe are about to align.” — Time’s Raisa Bruner

“I can only express my feelings through GIFS, because holy shit. — Esquire’s Tyler Coates    (images to the left)

Miami Herald’s Chabeli Herrara had this to say: “It was an idea almost too good to be true: Bonnie Tyler singing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ during the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in 99 years — on a cruise ship. But somehow, Royal Caribbean International pulled it off, largely because they thought of it first. The Miami-based cruise line reached out to Tyler last September, just before calls started coming in to book the singer at other eclipse-themed functions.”

Said Quan:  “Once the news broke that Bonnie Tyler was on board, we trended for three days in social media. We were in a lot of media channels that we typically wouldn’t be in, that were outside the travel space. It was a great opportunity to tap into a pop culture phenomenon.”

The promotion also helped Royal Caribbean to achieve the business goal of attracting younger customers, she said, noting that millennials do not think cruising is cool. For the Total Eclipse Cruise, the median age was 40 whereas it’s usually 45. The cruise was sold out, with premium cabins going for as much as $15,000.

Security Blanket for the Masses

Confucius said that humanity is “love of people,” that one should love “the masses extensively.” He also said, “If you want to make a stand, help others make a stand,” which helps us link Chinese philosophy once again to Royal Caribbean’s global influence. 

While a meteorologist was aboard the Oasis of the Seas to maximize enjoyment of the eclipse, meteorologists were predicting total annihilation of the Caribbean a few weeks later.  

“When the hurricanes hit, we cancelled cruises and helped with relief efforts. We evacuated people from devastated areas and gave our evacuees the full guest experience,” Quan said, noting that some of those on board said they knew they’d be taken to safety but not in such a relaxing way. As the panel discussion gave way to question time, a Puerto Rican woman stood up to say she was familiar with Royal Caribbean’s life-saving measures. On behalf of the island, she expressed her gratitude.

So what is a brand’s role in culture? As melodic as a song. As graceful as water for the thirsty. 



This is the third article in a series of trend pieces about PR and advertising, inspired by The Holmes Report’s Global PR Summit held October 23-25 at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, Miami. For the article about a “value for all” business approach, click here. For a post on the world’s first brand and Excedrin’s multimedia campaigns, click here

Image credit: © Frank Stella.  “Frank Stella: Experiment and Change” runs from November 12, 2017 through July 8, 2018, at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale

Sally-Ann O’Dowd is a multimedia content producer and publicist. She recently moved from New York City to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so she could swim more.  For further information, visit and LinkedIn. Email:

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