Becoming a content connoisseur
David Beebe joined Marriott at just the right time. Combining
the company's history as an innovator -- did you know Marriott
began as a hot dog vendor, introduced drive-up service and
pioneered in-flight dining? -- with Beebe's storytelling background
made for a ripe content-marketing opportunity. Plus, the CEO
recognized that the landscape was shifting towards stories.
"Combine all those things with leadership that really believes in
that strategy and approach but also gives you permission to fail,
and you have a runway to just try it and see what happens," he
Beebe and his team sought to establish Marriott as the largest
producer of travel lifestyle content. They set up an in-house
content studio, focusing first on short films and premium
storytelling. For example, "The Two Bellmen"
series featured scenes from LA, Dubai and Seoul, showcasing the
brand with a story "that entertains people" before selling to
Putting purpose before process
But not all content worked equally, and Beebe learned that the
why behind the content was ultimately more important than
the what. "Oftentimes, brands don't know why they're doing
what they're doing," he said, citing occasions where Marriott's
marketers presented content tactics without any strategy. "They
just want to create a film or a webisode."
"If they couldn't explain why," he added, "we sent them back to
the drawing table to really understand the purpose of it."
One effective "why" occurred with Moxy, a brand for the next
generation of travelers. Beebe's teams created a
web series with the goal of introducing the brand to the
marketplace -- a normally work-intensive task. Over a dozen
episodes on Instagram and YouTube subtly tied to sales packages
engaged the audience with this new Marriott world.
Another film, "French Kiss," was
created to drive revenue. The effort booked $500,000 worth of rooms
in just 60 days. "It's a sales package where you get the same
experience you saw in the film," including meeting the general
manager and enjoying champagne, chocolate, the room, the rate and a
private tour, Beebe explains. "You see the features and benefits of
the hotel throughout the story, but you never see us talk about it
directly to the viewer."
Through these initiatives, Beebe and his team demonstrated how
content marketing can drive the business in a sustainable way.
"Brands are storytellers and media companies now," he says. "It may
not be their core business, but the opportunity exists, and that's
just exciting itself."
Beebe shared what brands need to properly execute content
1. A storytelling leader: "That could be,
depending on the content, someone like me from TV storytelling, to
a journalist, to someone from a general media strategy world. The
practice of content marketing is a specialty, and I think a lot of
times CEOs don't understand the fundamentals of storytelling versus
what's actually a campaign."
2. A dedicated budget: "You can't rely on the
brands to contribute dollars for content development. You have to
show them what it can do, and eventually start to shift dollars
from traditional media to content marketing."
3. Creative control: "Our entire strategy is
built around developing creative in-house. We don't take pitches
from production companies. We develop what we want to do, and then
we go to the creative community to execute this type of
4. Internal buy-in: "The final thing is being
able to educate people that content marketing is just one part of
an entire marketing mix. You should be creating a content
advertising ecosystem versus a bunch of siloed campaigns that don't
talk to each other."