It's official: with the recent acquisition of Starwood Hotels, Marriott International is now the world's largest hotel empire.
That's both good news and bad news for David Beebe, the company's VP of global content. Beebe and his team now shoulder the massive task of producing, promoting, and monitoring content for Marriot's 30 hotel chains, including brands like the Ritz Carlton, Renaissance, Aloft and W Hotels.
Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from Marriot's marketing and engagement strategies, which work across all of the company's brands.
According to Beebe, Marriot began reinventing its marketing tactics nearly three years ago, in response to the changing travel landscape and the challenge of 24/7 customer interactions. All of Marriott's brands compete for different segments of the same audience: travelers."We are targeting next generation travelers, including business, leisure, and family," said Beebe.
For Beebe, job 1 is getting inside the heads of each hotel chain's customers and offering them the experience that fits their lifestyle.
"We knew we had to establish a new set of rules for engaging our customers, so we got interested in what they were interested in," he explains. "We defied the business traveler stereotype and started looking at things like art, fashion and music to inspire content. People are interested in different passion points and if you can build content and commerce around that, you create a community of evangelists."
Specificity Makes You Special
Most companies have trouble choosing the one thing that makes them different. They try to be all things to all audiences and wind up being nothing to anyone. The content becomes general and therefore uninteresting.
"To standout," says Beebe, "we figured out who our most valuable customers were and started developing content they would actually care about. Short-form, long-form, scripted and unscripted content - we believe everything that comes from our brand should either inform or entertain. Otherwise, customers will tune us out."
Real-Time Strategy for Real Results
Traditionally, marketing and communication departments work in silos and fight for their share of the budget. Beebe took a different approach and created M Live. This internal brand studio has brand managers, PR professionals and social media experts working together in real-time to respond to customers and create content.
M Live's 14-screen media studio is staffed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, enabling Marriott's team to engage with their global audience. Marriott runs similar studios in cities like Hong Kong, Miami, London, and soon, Dubai. "I believe you'll see more brands making this type of shift moving forward," says Beebe.
Choose Your Channel
Here's a piece of advice that Beebe would give brands striving for social media relevance: Don't give equal emphasis to every channel for every brand. For instance, at first MOXY Hotels was the only Marriott brand on Instagram. "Once we figured out what worked and what didn't on Instagram, " explains Beebe, "we used that to shape other brand accounts."
Tap into the Trends
Marriott excels at using pop culture and trending topics to get their customers interested and involved. For instance, Marriott's #withtheband allowed members to redeem points for VIP access to Demo Lovato and Nick Jonas concerts, including choice seating and behind-the-scenes content. A similar, highly successful campaign was developed around the Pokémon Go craze.
Build a Binge-Worthy Brand
We may not all be marketing for a mega-brand like Marriott, but Beebe's proven tactics can benefit entrepreneurs both large and small. We are all media companies, publishing content as individuals and crafting our images on social media. For instance, Beebe's team created a short film series called Two Bellmen about bellhops doing outrageously funny things for hotel guests, which has been viewed approximately 12 million times on YouTube.
"By becoming producers of content, we are on a mission to stop interrupting consumers, and instead use storytelling to reach them where they are already," said Beebe.
Whether we are building a personal brand or a corporate image, it all comes down to smart programming decisions. David Beebe's Marriot playbook can help us get with the program.