Arnie WeissmannIn the National Lampoon Vacation film series, nothing ever goes right, except at the box office. Four films were released between 1983 and 1997, and they have such a dedicated, loyal audience that the National Lampoon brand lives on.

The brand has been groomed, extended, nurtured and milked by National Lampoon Inc. -- even though the magazine that launched the brand died seven years ago. Like any good brand in the 21st century, it will not rest until it manifests as a lifestyle brand. And like any good lifestyle brand, it must have a travel component. In other words, your clients, too, can star in their very own National Lampoon vacation.

About now, you may be thinking, While I have many clients who enjoy laughing at the unfortunate Griswolds on vacation, I dont have many clients who would actually want to be like the unfortunate Griswolds on vacation.

The National Lampoon people have thought about that. Though their Vacation film series has a travel-related theme, they havent tied their National Lampoon Tours division to the Griswolds. Dont think of Chevy Chase as hapless Clark W. Griswold. Think John Belushi, full of hap, in his Bluto role from the first National Lampoon movie, Animal House.

Toga parties, Greek games and 24-hour open bars are a part of the spring break packages offered by the tour division. College students can sign up for Las Vegas or Cabo San Lucas and experience, in the words of the company, all the components of a good time. Not as succinct as, say, the Fun Ship, but not a bad hook to dangle in front of college students.

I phoned the executive vice president of the tour division, Jason Hollander. I kind of worried his tone would be somewhere between the mock sincerity of Eddie Haskell and the sincere mockery of Van Wilder, the party master in Animal House.

Alas, I found myself disarmed by Hollander, a modest and funny marketer who has experience selling travel to young adults. He has been running spring break tours to Cabo for 14 years, first as an extension of a college magazine he started called 28th Street and then under the name Cabospringbreak.com.

His target market for National Lampoon Tours is the first generation to have spent its entire adolescence in the era of the Web. Were going to have a strong online presence [NationalLampoonTours.com], he said. Our target audience relies on the Web for information and less on print. I used to be a print publisher, by the way, so it makes my skin crawl to say such a thing.

He will offer travel agents commission on land packages, or he will sell them net, enabling agents to add air and mark up the package.

With the backing of National Lampoon Network beaming ads through cable TV into 600 campuses and street teams of social influencers on campuses, Hollander isnt worried about filling the tours.

This years experimental, he said, but we feel confident in the brands appeal. How many travel products are out there that dont [require] explaining what the brand means?

Well, you might need to explain one thing: Think Belushi, not Chase.

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