Don’t Make the Content Suck: The Marriott Approach To Content Marketing Domination

Marriott wants to become the world’s largest publisher of travel content.

Travel

Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, etc. take note: Marriott is on a mission to become the world’s largest publisher of travel content. And the brand is doing so in part with a new content studio to connect with “next-generation travelers” and to create so-called 360-degree experiences.

While Marriott is a brand that naturally inspires plenty of user-generated content and can use said content to tell branded stories, Marriott also sells an experience it can’t always control from an executive level because of factors as unpredictable as employees or consumers in bad moods on a given day.

That’s according to feedback from David Beebe, vice president of global creative and content marketing at Marriott International, at an Advertising Week panel.

At the end of the day, Beebe said, when it comes to content marketing, the advice he gets from Mr. Marriott himself is: “Don’t make the content suck.”

So how does the hotel brand do that?

For one, Marriott utilizes technology to provide content at the right moment and on the right screen, Beebe said.

“When looking for a place to go, how do I deliver content that’s relevant and say, ‘Oh, by the way, we sell hotel rooms, why don’t you stay with us?’” Beebe said.

The brand recently made a high-tech move to appeal to the next generation of travelers, partnering with visual effects company Framestore to create a 4D virtual reality travel experience with Oculus Rift technology.

It also launched its own content studio, which will create digital content across film, television, online, and print platforms. Marriott says its studio includes teams responsible for: creative and snackable travel lifestyle content; episodic story-driven content; and real-time creative and content around trending topics, conversations, and events on social media.

That means different kinds of content with varying lengths of engagement.

“For us, it’s literally just getting started,” Beebe said.

It’s all about providing “information and entertainment at the right time and in the right context,” he added.

To that end, the brand has partnered with entrepreneur and travel vlogger Sonia Gil of Sonia’s Travels, music and movement group Substance Over Hype, which will produce an original short film, “Two Bellmen”; self-described media empress Shira Lazar, who will bring audiences popular videos, trends and personalities on YouTube and social media; and musical comedian, actress and content creator Taryn Southern.

The project will also include The Navigator Live, a Renaissance Hotels TV series in distribution on AXS TV, produced in partnership with AEG, which will combine live performances by indie music artists discovering new experiences on the road; and Marriott Rewards’ Year of Surprises, a series of 12 webisodes premiering in October.

“We’re now positioning ourselves as the world’s largest travel company,” Beebe said. “Between our platform and partner platforms, we can become the world’s largest publisher of travel content.”

Beebe said Marriott understands consumers want to interact with content, which drives commerce. If the brand simply showed hotels or locations, it wouldn’t be adding value. So-called infotainment on YouTube that drives back to Marriott.com isn’t enough either. Instead, Marriott is using a totally different approach, Beebe said.

That’s because brands must cut through a lot of clutter and realize there’s a value exchange in content marketing. And, for that reason, it’s important to think about what the consumer wants first, Beebe said.

At the same time, consumers don’t always know what they want, so brands need to leave room for experimentation, he added.

Brands must also develop creative with emotional triggers.

“It’s test and learn, but I think we can own the entire travel journey and we’re not afraid to go out and try it,” Beebe said.

Marriott content marketing also includes a pre-existing effort, Travel Brilliantly, a multi-year marketing campaign that includes TV, digital, and mobile advertising, “enhanced” social media platforms and the Travel Brilliantly website, which includes a co-creation platform to solicit user-generated ideas. According to Marriott, the campaign “reflects the lifestyle of the next generation of travelers, who seamlessly blend work and play in a mobile and global world.”

“We co-create and curate,” Beebe said. “It’s across the travel spectrum and journey. It’s not just staying in the hotel, it’s where to go, what to eat and the full 360-degree cycle.”

What do you think? Does Marriott have the chops to become the world's largest publisher of travel content?

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