Marriott International, Inc. is getting into the digital travel publishing business with its new local guide Marriott Traveler

by Heather Cassell

Global hotelier Marriott International is getting with the 21st century by changing its tune from big impersonal global hotelier to personable local hotelier with a new campaign aimed at providing up-to-date local recommendations for its guests.

How is the company scaling down while remaining big? By targeting niche markets, such as last year’s Love Travels campaign and taking bed and breakfast and boutique values and transmitting them through its staff and new digital publication Marriott Traveler.

Last year, Marriott launched #LoveTravels aimed at LGBT travelers to change its anti-gay image of years past.

The world got its first look at Marriott Traveler, an interactive multimedia digital publication, with the launch of its New Orleans edition March 23.

Changing Landscape of Reaching Customers

In the coming three months, guests can expect to see nearly 300 stories about Chicago, New Orleans, and Orlando. Marriott plans to add more content about cities around the world in the future.

Guests will be able to access current local destination and travel content range from art, music, fashion, wellness, family, food, drink and more that is “unexpected, informative, and definitely not found in tourist guides,” according to the hotelier’s March 23 news release.

Some of the shows currently in development include: Renaissance Hotels’ indie music performance series The Navigator Live; action-comedy stunt show Two Bellmen; and Web series Marriott Rewards’ Year of Surprises, which will honor people in the community for their contributions to society, reports Ad Week.

The original content will be provided by social media travel experts, such as YouTube travel star Sonia Gil of Sonia’s Travels, stunt team Substance Over Hype, social media news purveyors What’s Trending and comedian Taryn Southern, reports Ad Week.

“Marriott Traveler will offer consumers authentic travel stories and experiences from across the world written by local and global influencers passionate where they live and where they travel,” says David Beebe, vice president of the Marriott Creative and Content Studio division of Marriott.

Andy Kauffman, vice president of digital marketing and agrees.

“We are focused on producing engaging and informative content created for the way people research and purchase travel online,” he says. “Launching Marriott Traveler, expands the value our website brings to consumers, particularly younger business and leisure travelers who want to experience something unique during their travels and share their adventures with their social networks.”

David knows a little something about value-driven content and marketing. He is the former executive and producer at Disney-ABC Television. His goal, if it’s successful, is to make Marriott “the world’s largest producer of travel-related content,” through writing partners, Marriott Rewards Insiders community and Marriott’s own associates, according to the release.

Marriott’s new Creative and Content Studio’s goal is following Red Bull and GoPro’s lead by becoming experts in action and sports by becoming the travel entertainment leader providing high quality original media content for the hotelier’s portfolio of 18 travel-related brands.

To accomplish this, the division is made up of three parts: a creative agency producing content development; entertainment division responsible for video production of Web cast clips to TV shows; and a real-time marketing group to monitor social media and handle instant interaction to trending topics.

The interactive content embedded into Marriott’s website will be distributed over a variety of platforms from blogs to mobile to social media to the website.

Marriott Traveler is being head up by its new editorial director Marc Graser. Marc is a 13-year veteran at Variety Magazine as its former senior editor, reports the Washington Business Journal.

“I’m very excited to work with Marriott,” says Sonia in the release. “I have put in a lot of effort to find the characters, places and on-the-pulse insights that travelers will appreciate. The places I visit are the main characters. I am going along for the ride and letting the content drive the conversation.”

Marriott expects a kickback for providing guests with quality travel media. David believes as the heads of Marriott do that by “developing engaging content that builds communities of people” it will drive guests to the hotel.

“It is our belief consumers appreciate well-crafted content that provides value to them, and they in turn will provide value back to us,” says David.

Is Marriott Taking On Too Much?

However, the campaign isn’t without its naysayers.

Gartner’s Andrew Frank and Larry Woodard of digital advertising at Graham Stanley Advertising are skeptical.

Andrew tells Ad Week that while Marriott is following the trend of several transnational companies, such as Nike and Pepsi, which have engaged customers through its own in-house divisions for years; it’s a “risky move,” since brands “can be less experienced in creative and media strategy compared to agencies.”

He cautions “that it isn’t easy to become a global entertainment entity” and believes that Marriott has an “uphill battle considering how many travel programs are already established online and offline.”

Larry agrees.

“Neither Marriott nor any other travel giant will be able to own travel entertainment online,” he says. “For the foreseeable future consumers will be the leading edge of content creation.”

However, Larry also believes that, “Things are growing so fast and are so divergent from traditional marketing that you need to cast a wide net just to stay relevant,” he adds.

“For every brand do-it-yourself content publishing success story, there’s a much larger number of failed attempts. Brands that lack creative core competencies may be surprised at the costs and cultural challenges involved in building a world-class in-house capability,” Andrew adds.

In spite of his skepticism, Larry believes it’s a smart move on Marriott’s part pointing out that creating an internal media rich marketing team “can be a smart way to create a following and get in touch with your consumer base,” he says.

To book your next stay at Marriot, contact Heather Cassell at Girls That Roam Travel at Travel Advisors of Los Gatos at 408-354-6531at or .

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