Marriott's Beebe explains content marketing
Marriott's Beebe explains content marketing
08 DECEMBER 2015 7:35 AM
Marriott’s David Beebe outlines some things to know about content marketing in the hotel industry.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—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.
Marketing through informing
Beebe said Marriott has had recent successes through publishing its own magazine, Marriott Traveler, and said its content is “destination-based.”
“It’s what to do and where to go in this city,” he said. 
He said these efforts include traditional articles, infographics, online video series and other things you might see from more traditional media outlets.
He said the initial launch of the magazine encompassed three cities, and that was enough to drive 7,200 rooms booked within a 90-day window.
“It’s an opportunity for us to tap into an audience that’s interested in booking hotel rooms and engage them along the way,” Beebe said. “But you never really want to interrupt that process. It’s a way of getting people into our world, providing that information and saying, ‘Oh by the way, we know you have intent to travel. We also sell hotel rooms.’”
Beebe said it’s important the content in that publication isn’t specifically about Marriott. He said Marriott worked with both journalists and employees at individual hotels to generate the magazine.
The three C’s
Beebe said Marriott International’s content marketing strategy is defined by its “three C’s”: content, community and commerce.
While much of his discussion focused on content, Beebe said that second “C” revolves around social media and digital platforms. In particular, he mentioned interacting with YouTube subscribers.
“It’s about engaging a community and building tribes in different areas,” Beebe said.
Beebe said the third “C”—commerce—is unsurprisingly driven largely by getting content viewers to book at Marriott’s hotels. But there are other financial motivations for creating content.
“It can also (be) licensing our content to other content distributors,” Beebe said. “Because of the way we produce it, it does create value for other distributors who are delivering content across all platforms. And we have started to license our short films and documentaries to those people, both internationally and here in the states.”

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