Enterprise hotel brands are doubling down on content—and it’s working.
Marriott has revamped its content strategy, leading industry publications to wonder aloud whether it’s now become more of a media company than a hotel brand. But maybe it’s time for the two to become intertwined.
Focus on content experiences, not just content
Redefining SaaS as “storytelling-as-a-service,” AdWeek recently highlighted how Marriott and other enterprise hotels are leveraging the voices and experiences of customers from every brand under their umbrellas. With real-life customer experiences at the heart of content experiences, the brand provides an authentic story for each brand.
Marriott has created content across the entire scale of production. With authentic customer content as a foundation, each brand inspires and attracts new visitors who’ve seen the visual proof and want in. “Our members are at the center of the narrative,” says Scott Weisenthal, VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing at Marriott. “And that’s really, really important. Everything we do is about their stories, enriching their lives. And then, in essence, by doing so, we turn our guests and our members into brand advocates.”
By telling the stories of travelers, enterprise hotel brands like Marriott take ownership of the entire travel experience, not just the stay. As a result, consumers can look to hotels to provide them with everything they need for an easy, successful holiday instead of booking transportation and excursions across multiple sites from afar haphazardly.
Marriott’s content strategy consists of four overarching channels: a real-time social media marketing center called M Live, the Marriott Bonvoy Traveler inspiration hub, a content studio producing high-level films and content, and an in-house creative agency for branded content.
Marriott’s need for fresh, engaging content is constant with so many content channels. By tapping into the authentic content created by travelers worldwide every day, Marriott—and all of the brands under its umbrella—can efficiently fuel its content strategies with local, relevant visuals. Plus, travelers are already looking for relatable content. In fact, 86 percent of people (and 92 percent of Gen Z) say they’ve become interested in a specific location based on visual social proof from peers.
With a well-rounded strategy like Marriott’s, consumers expect value from each visual they encounter—they don’t have time for stock images. Marriott sticks to a diverse array of content with their customers in mind that leaves a lasting effect.
Highly-produced creative content, like documentary short films, provides consumers with an exciting, unique viewing experience — a popular commodity in the Netflix age of streaming video. Actual, user-generated content featured across the Marriott Bonvoy Traveler inspiration hub gives prospective travelers visual proof of the exciting possibilities of Marriott stays. And M Live, the social command center, assures a constant social conversation. Keeping an eye on the content produced in real-time enables Marriott to source the best content out there—content their customers are already organically creating.
“We never ask a member or anyone to post on our behalf. Ever,” Weisenthal says. “This is about their journey, experience, what they feel comfortable doing. But in most cases, we will see that they will broadcast their experience to their followers, usually tagging us or talking about us. And this is a content mechanism—a content lever, if you will—with zero media spend. And we always look at our engagement rates, where 2% is usually the benchmark. In this instance, the engagement rate was 15%.”
Enterprise hotel brands leveraging AI-powered user-generated content (UCG) platforms can intelligently sift through these mountains of content and surface the best, most relevant pieces to obtain the rights to, then publish across all their content channels.
Armed with this valuable, customer-created content, Marriott spends less and gets so much more out of all their touchpoints.
Personalization for every brand, for every customer for every stay
For hotel brands, experiences are everything. Today, a successful hospitality brand isn’t only selling a comfortable stay—it’s selling the amenities, excursions, and personalized treatment that makes each stay truly comfortable for each individual.
When it comes to travel, consumer expectations continue to grow. In fact, 87 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with travel brands offering personalized experiences. That means it is essential to personalize the content served to each customer because multiple sizes do not fit all.
Consumers that come directly to a site need to know they can receive a stay that fits their unique needs and preferences. However, if visitors to the site are members of a loyalty program, messaging should be tailored to them, showing them precisely what perks they get for being loyal to the brand.
Hilton is taking notice of consumers’ desire for unique experiences. The brand encourages its 17 sub-brands to promote direct bookings on the site to its 90+ million loyalty members and every prospective traveler looking for a well-rounded, customized trip. With Hilton’s Price Match Guarantee rewards for direct bookings, visitors can receive perks such as free WiFi, a digital key, and the ability to select their rooms—three desires that travelers have universally reported as essential to a positive stay.
Successful personalization doesn’t end with the booking stage. Guests share their experiences throughout their stays—not just after checking out their room. Younger generations especially are looking to digital methods for feedback; 15 percent of Millennials want to text message with hotels, and 17 percent of 35-54-year-olds want an email survey from the hotel before they arrive.
Provide a communication line where guests can express their needs, thoughts, and concerns—and they can be confident they will hear them. Whether it’s a website, a function on your brand’s mobile app, or a direct physical line in the room, providing a streamlined, internal process to cater to guests’ (especially loyalty members’!) needs prevents a guest from feeling as though they need to post a negative review publicly. It gives your brand a chance to act in real-time—and remember that guest’s specific needs for their next stay.
Better processes enable better content
Enterprise hotel brands are constantly looking to innovate, and bigger and better content experiences lay the groundwork for loyal customer experiences. “The emphasis in both the Hilton and Marriott campaigns is building sustained relationships between a traveler and the brand,” says Debika Sihi, Associate Professor of Economics at Southwestern University.
And these are the relationships that will last.