How Hospitality Brands Can Stay Competitive With Smart Content
By Corey Finjer Sr. Vice President, Hawkins International PR | June 21, 2015
In the movie 'Two Bellmen', a JW Marriott hotel is under siege by the Purple Panthers, brazen art thieves who are often disguised as ice cream peddlers. Hotel employees - the bellmen, played by Hollywood stuntmen William Spencer and Caine Sinclair - save the day with quick thinking, martial arts chops and some handy hotel props. Within the first month of its release, the 17-and-a-half minute action-comedy has garnered over five million YouTube views.
The film, with a cast that includes Miles Brown, aka Baby Boogaloo, among other luminaries from hip-hop music and dance, is just one piece of a massive content marketing play by Marriott International. David Beebe, its content chief, reportedly leads a team of more than sixty creatives and strategists responsible for the development, production and distribution of content across all formats and platforms to support its brands. Besides Two Bellmen, whose brand tie-in is purposely subtle, initiatives include interactive travel stories that live on the smartphone messaging platform Snapchat; a digital video series aimed at Marriott Rewards members; an ambitious online travel magazine; and an indie-music-oriented television series produced with entertainment presenter AEG and distributed through AXS TV.
Rooted in lifestyle, pleasure and escape from the commonplace, hospitality brands have always been at the forefront of developing new and innovative uses for digital media. But Marriott's leap of faith represents a tipping point: Beebe is intent on Marriott becoming not just the leading brand publisher in the hospitality industry, but a creative tour de force primed to compete for eyeballs, advertising dollars and word-of-mouth with the likes of Disney, Conde Nast and other traditional rulers of the content roost. This has made Marriott the topic of much discussion in hotel and branding circles, while prompting some head scratching among small- to mid-sized brands with fewer properties and resources but big ambitions for using digital to connect with and attract customers.
The good news for smaller operators is that, with some imagination and baseline technical competencies applied to select tools and platforms, you can develop and deploy content that builds emotional connections with customers and sparks social interactions. Some suggestions for engaging audiences in a multi-channel, social world:
Don't Just Inform. Surprise, Delight, Inspire
Remember when Facebook posts by hospitality brands could easily be mistaken for recycled brochure content: photos of properties and destinations, highlights of amenities, special offers and programs? We've come a long way in a few short years, but the bar keeps rising and the way stories are told and shared continues to evolve. Brand-centric communiques and standard destination information is becoming less relevant, while offbeat content featuring curiosities and tastemakers/influencers is taking on more importance, especially in targeting next-gen travelers.