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 each and every brand under their umbrellas. With real-life customer experiences at the heart of content experiences, the brand provides an authentic story for each individual brand.
Marriott has created content across the entire scale of production. With authentic customer content as a foundation, each individual brand inspires and attracts new visitors who’ve seen 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. Consumers can look to hotels to provide them with everything they need for an easy, successful holiday, instead of having to haphazardly book transportation and excursions across multiple sites from afar.
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.
With so many content channels, Marriott’s need for fresh, engaging content is constant. By tapping into the authentic content created by travelers all over the world every day, Marriott — and all of the brands under its umbrella — can easily fuel their content strategies with local, relevant visuals. Plus, travelers are already looking for content they can relate to. In fact, 86 percent of people (and 92 percent of Gen Z) saying 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. With their customers in mind, Marriott sticks to a diverse array of content 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. Real, user-generated content featured across the Marriott Bonvoy Traveler inspiration hub gives prospective travelers visual proof into the exciting possibilities of a Marriott stay. And M Live, the social command center, assures a constant social conversation. Keeping an eye on the content that’s produced in real-time enables Marriott to source the best content out there — content their customers are already organically producing.
“We never ask a member or anyone to post on our behalf. Ever,” Weisenthal says. “This is about their journey, their experience, what they feel comfortable doing. But in most cases, we will see that they will then 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%.”
But with millions of guests constantly posting Marriott-specific content across their favorite social networks, it can be challenging to keep up with that volume and velocity of visual assets. This is why enterprise hotel brands leverage AI powered user-generated content (UCG) platforms like Stackla, to help them intelligently sift through these mountains of content and surface the best, most relevant pieces to obtain the rights to, then publish back out across all their content channels.
Armed with this valuable, customer-created content, Marriott is spending less and getting 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’s essential to personalize the content that’s served to each and every 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. If visitors to the site are a member of the loyalty program, messaging should be tailored to them, showing them exactly what perks they get for being loyal to the brand.
Hilton is taking notice of consumers’ desire for unique experiences, and is encouraging its 17 hotel brands to promote direct bookings on the site not only to its 90+ million loyalty members, but to 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.
And, successful personalization doesn’t end with the booking stage. More than ever, guests are sharing their experiences throughout their stays — not just after they’ve checked out of 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’ll actually be heard. Whether it’s a website, a function on your brand’s mobile app or a physical direct 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, and 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.