The Marriott hotel chain has a long history of content marketing. Now the company is taking a new step and creating a media house for future ...

How the Marriott became a media company

The Marriott hotel chain has a long and proud history of content marketing. Now the company is taking a new step and creating a media house for future travellers.

Behind every successful business is a successful story. The story behind the Marriott’s genesis is as fascinating as it is instructive. JW Marriott and his wife Alice already understood the importance of content marketing back in the 1950s, when they launched their first customer newsletter with recipes and crafts for children. Their customer and media focus resulted in the hotel chain we know today.

Marriott’s extensive media investment
Fast forward the tape to November 2015, and we see a new large investment by the company. The goal of the media initiative is clear – to become the leading publisher of travel and lifestyle content for a new generation of travellers.

David Beebe is responsible for Marriott’s content studio and production of digital content. He believes that content marketing is the most effective way to reach millennials because this target group ignore advertising and messages that annoy them. This younger crowd challenges marketers to think in new ways.

“Companies must learn to talk to their customers, not to yell at them,” he said in his presentation at Content Marketing World. In the same speech, he made a rather humorous comparison between content marketing and dating.

“Content Marketing is really like your first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there will not be a second date. ”

So how do Marriott use this ‘media first’ approach to attract millennials and grow as an organisation? In this article, we look at the merits of developing a ‘content brand’ and the importance of reviewing your own media channels to be able to increase sales and develop business long term.

Marriott borrows model from Hollywood
David Beebe advocated a Hollywood model that is based on hiring external producers and creators instead of creating all the content internally.

“If you do everything within the company, the focus is often on marketing the brand and in the process the added value for the customer is forgotten,” he says in an interview for Contently.

Cooperation with external producers also reinforces the brand’s consumer confidence, while the content becomes more sought after in other channels. Marriott’s successful YouTube videos are clear evidence of how this looks in reality.

A YouTube movie that raked in more than $600 000
Marriott’s two YouTube films from 2015 are good examples of how the Hollywood model works in practice. The Two Bellmen is directed by Daniel ‘Malakai’ Cabrera. while French Kiss was produced by Ian Sanders and Kim Moses.

Both films received great attention and were shared many times on social media, but French Kiss became the movie that made the most money for the company. A campaign was carried out in connection with the YouTube film and generated more than 600,000 dollars in hotel reservations only. It should also be mentioned that both productions paved the way for the licence agreements with Hulu and Netflix that were worth millions.

Researching a company’s media channels
David Beebe encourages companies to review their own media channels, such as websites, social media and apps. In many cases, business own more media space than they think.

Hotel Chains, for example, have TV screens in every room, something that the Marriott is currently experimenting with. Their own channels must be used wisely and not disturb guests with annoying sales messages. Content should rather entertain, inform and help customers to solve their problems on the spot.

“That is when they will be most effective,” says Beebe. “You have to earn the attention and not get lost in the crowd.”

Media house behind the success
The content studio M Live is behind much of Marriott’s marketing success. In addition to David Beebe, the editorial staff consists of former Disney veteran Karin Timpone, CBS producer Matthew Glick and Variety editor Marc Graser.

The editorial staff work in a room of glass where the nine large screens display in real time all current figures for Marriott’s social media campaigns, corporate content calendar and current figures for hotel reservations worldwide.

The main reason for Marriott’s success is however not visible on the screens, but on the chairs in the room. Marriott’s different communication managers work together and cooperate closely with each other. Thus they can act quickly and effectively to new market opportunities and adapt to situations. Communication is carefully planned, but can be acted on with agility based on world events and up-to-date information.

By being both relevant and interesting, the content studio can create content that will not disappear in the crowd. One of the benefits of being a ‘content brand’ is the ability to take advantage of various opportunities and be seen in the right context.

Communication on the recipients’ terms
The core of David Beebe’s message is that it is today’s consumers who have the power. They decide when, where and how they want to interact with your business. Brands must therefore offer valuable content to gain a place in their consumers’ lives. They must learn to tell engaging stories grounded in reality. Storytelling is a central part of this strategic work.

The benefits of being a ‘content brand’ are many. Secondly, it helps businesses to build trust and strengthen customer relationships. It will also become easier to reach younger audiences.

Yet above all, it offers new opportunities to drive the company forward, just as JM Marriott and his wife Alice did with their first customer magazine more than 50 years ago.

Olle Lindholm