Large-scale marketing efforts have grown exponentially more complex than they were in the early days of the hotel industry, and now can even more closely resemble TV shows or movies than a traditional sales pitch.
This so called “content marketing” can be a tricky thing to grasp for those unfamiliar with it, particularly because its goals can be more nebulous than simply selling off roomnights.
David Beebe, the award-winning VP of global creative and content marketing for Marriott International, walked through some of the key things to know about content and influencer marketing during a webinar on 3 December.
Storytelling not sales pitch
Content marketing stretches far beyond the traditional scope of regular advertising.
“We are publishing magazines, books. We have TV shows, webisodes, short films, documentaries,” Beebe said. “You have to be really everywhere the audience is engaging with them. It’s content that informs. It’s content that entertains. Sometimes both.”
At the same time, these are still marketing efforts, and Beebe said the company is able to drive bookings by “integrating brands into our short films.”
Beebe described two of Marriott’s recent short films “Two Bellmen” and “French Kiss” as “telling stories around travel.”
“The story always aligns with the brand in some way,” Beebe said.
“Two Bellmen,” for example, is an 18-minute short film with more than 5 million views on YouTube that involves a business traveler and was shot at a JW Marriott property in Los Angeles.
“You can see the features and benefits of the hotel on screen through the story, but we never stop and integrated it in like you’d expect a brand to do in that sense,” Beebe said.
Inspire to travel, and not just to your property
Beebe said a lot of his department’s effort put into content marketing isn’t just focused on getting people to a Marriott property per se, but wanting to fuel a desire for travel. He said that can be hampered by more straightforward promotional messaging.
“I like to say, content marketing is like a first date,” Beebe said. “If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.”
Beebe said, to that end, some of the content must be created with the goal of inspiring travel and not specifically generating revenue.
He said this also means tracking what “content” that traveler is creating along their journey, primarily through the use of social media, and figuring out how to use that in marketing.
“Think about it. Travel really lends itself to content creation,” Beebe said.
That content can then, in turn, be used to inspire more travelers.
Work with talented content creators
Beebe said when seeking to make something compelling for consumers, it’s important to reach outside of your established marketing team.
“Our strategy is set at our studio, but we don’t actually produce anything in house,” Beebe said. “That’s a point I think brands need to remember. If you try to build a lot of your creative work in house, sometimes the brand gets in the way and it moves from content marketing into much more promotional stuff.”
Beebe said that means hiring writers, directors, actors, production companies or even other marketing agencies.