My favorite brand is Marriott International. I grew up in the Washington DC area where the family business had its humble beginnings as an A&W root beer stand in 1927. I first learned about the hotel chain in the 1970s from my parents while my father was working to refurbish Marriott’s original property built in 1957 in Arlington, VA. Recently, the company has undergone a massive expansion by purchasing competitors and creating new brands for niche markets. In the process, Marriott has grown to become the world’s largest hotel conglomerate with 5,700 properties and 30 brands in 110 countries around the world.
I had the honor and privilege of meeting the company’s CEO J.W. Marriott in the early 1980s. Since then, I have enthusiastically followed the hotel chains growth and I continue to go out of my way to stay in their properties whenever I travel. During the last 30 years, I have witnessed Marriott’s advertising and public relations campaigns shift from legacy marketing efforts, in print and television, to complex integrated strategies that include cutting edge campaigns “built upon the role of quality content in developing reputation and relationships” on social media platforms (Lipschultz, 2015). Through my research for this Masters program, I have discovered that Marriott’s award winning strategies are the envy of many multinational corporations and are second to none in the lodging and travel industry.
In 2014 Marriott launched its first 24-hour global media studio called M Live in Bethesda, MD to engage with stakeholders in real time. Since that initial launch, the company has opened four more command centers in Miami, London, Hong Kong and Dubai. The M Live mission is to create interactive content that “leverages pop culture and contains micro-nuggets of information, humor, commentary, or inspiration” (Lipschultz, 2015). Marriott’s branded content engages consumers on Instagram, YouTube, and SnapChat. The campaigns include, but are not limited to, short videos such as the “Two Bellmen” series that are extremely well produced, offering entertaining plotlines filmed in various Marriott hotels from LA to Dubai. The campaigns also use social media influencers like Taryn Southern in the series “Do Not Disturb” featuring celebrity guests in light hearted interviews to promote Marriott’s new economy brand Moxy Hotels. The videos are available on YouTube and various digital platforms on the internet. I have become a devoted follower and analyst of this social media campaign even though its specific target audience is the Millennial demographic.
Needless to say, I am extremely impressed with the in-depth understanding and professionalism displayed in the presentation of these communication efforts. The powerful electronic word of mouth endorsements seen amongst online travel communities has only served to solidify my brand loyalty and increase my desire to travel. It is clear that Marriott practitioners understand “the important role that consumer reviews (on social media) play in the process” (Lipschultz, 2015). One of the things that impressed me most is that while many companies have ignored or even pulled away from SnapChat, Marriott had the vision to invest in a strong presence in the platform that now has 100 million users daily and is the most popular social media outlet amongst young travelers. This goes against the conventional wisdom of the 85% of the marketers in Stelzner’s report that stated they have “no plans to use SnapChat” (Stelzner, 2014). Marriott’s SnapChat campaign includes a series of three-minute videos showing young social media influencers traveling to various locations and casually sharing their adventures while staying at Marriott Hotels. The Millennial vloggers are powerful brand ambassadors among a market segment prone to research and make purchasing decisions based on the experiences shared by their peers online.
At the pinnacle of Marriott’s social media marketing strategy is the Marriott Rewards program. Marriott Rewards offers an extraordinary, unparalleled travel experience while simultaneously creating positive user content. As Lipschultz states, online customer relationship management (CRM) “can take advantage of communication tools by literally reaching out to nearby customers with new offers” (Lipschultz, 2015). Marriott is able to provide individualized service such as champagne for newlyweds in real time through geo-fencing software partnership with Hyp3r. The Rewards mobile app for phones just keeps giving as customer’s positive online comments are compensated with perks created to develop brand loyalty. The app offers everything from the keyless entry for the tech savvy consumer to points for participants that include free nights, and reduced pricing on exciting travel adventures. Marriott’s points program “rewards brand loyalty through a special program that has linkage to their social media marketing program” (Lipschultz, 2015). Marriott’s campaign does just that and they presently do it better than any of their competitors.
My recommendation for the company to improve their social media presence is to continue to “approach social media as a viable business intelligence platform”(Lipschultz, 2015). Marriott International has the financial resources to experiment with what works and what doesn’t and adjust their campaigns accordingly. It is through the metrics of data mining software such as HootSuite, Narativ, and Hyp3r that social media can offer key “insights into consumer opinions and shared experiences” (Lipschultz, 2015). In this manner, the world’s largest provider of hospitality services can gain their greatest return on investment and convert the maximum number of tweets, likes, and shares into sustainable profits.
Lipschultz, J. H. (2015). Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics. New York, NY: Routledge.
Stelzner, M.A. (2014). 2014 Social media marketing industry report. Retrieved from the Social Media Examiner website: https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/SocialMediaMarketingIndustryReport2014.pdf