The prominent hotel chain, Marriott, has taken a decidedly unconventional approach toward catering to customers. Not only has it tried to expand upon visitors’ travel experiences with innovations in virtual reality, but it’s also gone as far as to open up its own content studio to create programming you normally wouldn’t expect from a hotel chain.
ClickZ reports the company’s pick-up in content marketing, which makes full use of the studio and creative partners to help put together memorable features that consumers will remember, including video ads with a distinct cinematic feel.
It’s one example of many revolving around brands shifting away from teaming up with ad agencies, and are taking their own approach to create programmatic advertising. It’s a method that appears to be paying off.
“You can’t argue with the numbers,” said David Beebe, vice president of global creative and content marketing for Marriott. “Consumers are not engaging with traditional marketing anymore. Anything that’s interruptive in nature, we don’t care about, and anything that’s not relevant to us, we ignore, delete, then we move on.”
The team that runs the content studio is a who’s who of talent, working on a number of strengths for programs that cater to consumers with a side of story-telling. This includes a YouTube web series called Do Not Disturb, standout travel articles for the Medium publication, and, best of all, an action-packed short film called Two Bellmen, which focuses on a pair of heroic Marriott employees subduing would-be art thieves. Two Bellmen was such a hit that Marriott has already green-lit a sequel, which has begun filming in Dubai.
It helps to have direction when putting your best foot forward with a studio, though. “One of the biggest mistakes brands make in content marketing is when they build a physical studio and spend $10 million to create it and then go, ‘What the hell are we going to do with this thing ‘” said Beebe.
The company is focusing on what it calls the “three C’s” when it comes to this process: content, community and commerce. With a team of over 65 employees devoted to it (including former journalists and agency representatives), it’s a process that Marriott is taking seriously.
“You’re seeing people associate (our original creative content) with the brand,” continued Beebe. “We’re not trying to trick anyone; they know it’s from a brand, but we’re also not trying to sell them anything. The biggest mistake marketers make is creating content that doesn’t provide value. If it’s all about you, nobody’s going to watch it.”
One other big draw to a process like this is teaming up with an influencer and giving them a majority of creative control. This creates a smooth-flowing process that will make them want to return. “What happens when brands try to create their own content in-house at scale, they often get in their own way and it becomes a commercial and an advertisement,” said Beebe. “You have to partner with the creative community, get out of their way, take some risks and let them do what they do best, which is tell stories.”
Finding the right partners is also key. For instance, Snapchatters have managed to take the company’s account to new heights, along with Jack Harris, a travel vlogger with a huge following, with over four million YouTube subscribers. Harris’ visits Istanbul with a camera attached to his head in one of his videos, providing a first-person “you are there” perspective. He also isn’t too overt with brand placement, by simply making a casual reference to Marriott at the end of the video, putting the focus more on exploration rather than the brand.
Beebe thinks it’s a novel approach. “We’re trying to inspire people to travel, to think about traveling. Hopefully they’ll remember our content and think about us, the next time they go to book,” he said.
Speaking at the recent Contently Summit in New York City, Beebe made a solid point about who the content is reaching out to. “We’re in the hospitality business; we take care of people and have a very intimate relationship with our customers,” he explained. “They sleep with us, after all.”
Teaming with YouTube talents and other web celebrities may be a novel approach for advertisers, especially when it focuses more on creative content and less on obvious messages like “use us!” For instance, Taryn Southern recently teamed up with Moxy Hotels for a special talk show called “Between the Sheets,” which features interviews with others while being filmed, yes, in a Moxy location. Again, the message is presented casually, giving audiences something to be interested in.
In summation, having a strong relationship with talent, trying new things, carefully keeping control of a budget and handling branding with care are all key ingredients that seem to be working for Marriott and others.