Marriott’s Adventure In Online Content Marketing Continues With Premiere of Latest Film

Entitled “Business Unusual,” it’s part of an ambitious content-creating campaign to generate buzz among younger travelers by featuring the hotels as background characters.

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From Marriott's Business Unusual

Hotels — those temporary domiciles of strangers — naturally lend themselves as settings for stories.

Marriott Hotels has decided to capitalize on that factor with an ambitious online content marketing initiative that includes short fictional movies. Today, the third in this series — called “Business Unusual” — premieres online and at its setting, the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel.

Like the previous two featurettes from the hotel chain’s year-old Content Studio, this new work aspires to being more than your standard online video pitch.

In it, two execs from separate companies travel to the (Marriott-owned) Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel to pitch a new ad campaign to a prospective client. One, the former intern of the other, struggles to win the account against the more experienced man’s cocky attitude. (See still image above.)

Although the story is completely different from the two previous works, “Business Unusual” shares several strategic characteristics.

For one thing, it’s longer than most branded online video, clocking in at 12 minutes. It features high production values and a business-based story with elements of romance and fantasy. And there’s a smattering of minor celebrities that include Tia Carrere (“Wayne’s World”), Jason Gerhardt (from the TV series “General Hospital” and “Mistresses”), Gran Bowler (“Defiance” and the TV series “True Blood and “Ugly Betty”), and former White Sox player Ozzie Guillen.

It also barely mentions the Renaissance Hotel, although the location appears as the setting for nearly every shot.

In the previous “French Kiss,” an American businessman in Paris — also struggling with a presentation — is compelled to follow a path around Paris highlighted by magical glasses left by a mysterious young woman. The Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees in that city is shown several times.

In “Two Bellmen” (17 minutes), the lead characters dance in their work and karate-fight through an attempted robbery in the JW Marriott Los Angeles hotel. A fourth film — “Two Bellmen Two” — is now being shot at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, the tallest hotel in the world.

In all three released films, there’s not a lot of mystery about how the plot will turn out, although occasional dance sequences and magical visual effects brighten the journey.

But plot twists or character development are not the point.

“The overall marketing strategy,” Vice President of Global Creative + Content Marketing David Beebe told me, “is to shift the way consumers interact with our brands. In order for us to engage with them, we have to provide content, [which] allows us to grow followers.”

“None of us engage with anything that it interruptive anymore,” he added.

The three films — plus other Marriott content marketing — lean toward associating the various hotel brands with entertainment and romance, and highlighting the sights in key travel destinations.

To reach potential travelers, the films are made available through a variety of outlets. YouTube, of course, as well as publicized premieres in hotels, specialized websites for the films, and presentations on the thousands of hotel rooms covered by Marriott’s closed-circuit TV.

“Business Unusual” also adds screenings on Virgin Air flights. Although not shown in the film, the airline partnered for the production.

This licensing, Beebe said, is one of the reasons behind the decision to go for a longer running time, such as the 23-minute length of “French Kiss.”

While very short films are usually considered better choices for the short-attention span of online users, he noted that the longer lengths have not hurt the previous two films’ viewership. “French Kiss” on YouTube, he reported, has had six million views and an 80 percent rate for completed viewings.

The reason? “We weren’t selling anything.”

“Experiential In Nature”

Buzz and brand promotion is one thing. But what are the bottom-line benefits of these films?

Beebe pointed to three main tangible results. There’s the aforementioned licensing revenue from some outlets, as well as the ability to retarget viewers with other marketing and to create travel packages that can sold around them.

A “Business Unusual” Movie Package includes what the company describes as “exclusive access to discoveries featuring the best tastes, sights and sounds of the Windy City,” an in-room bar kit and other benefits.

A package based around “French Kiss” included champagne and, Beebe told me, generated about half a million dollars in 60 days.

He noted that the films, while attracting much of the attention, are only “part of our overall mix” of content marketing.

Renaissance Hotels launched in October the second season of its “The Navigator Live” video series about touring musicians performing at the hotels. It’s presented with AXS TV, formerly HDNet TV.

There’s also an original YouTube series of animated shorts called “Hot Shoppe,” and another, “Do Not Disturb,” that stars YouTube performer Taryn Southern and promotes Marriott’s emerging boutique chain, Moxy Hotels. And the company has experimented with short, original Snapchat videos.

The key strategy, Beebe said, is to decide the space you want own. He pointed to Red Bull’s content marketing around adventure and sports or GE’s about innovation and tech, as well as short films and other content from Pepsi, Dior and BMW.

“What’s special is our collection of 19 brands,” he said, all of which are “experiential in nature.”

Our customers “sleep with us, as we say.”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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