Marketing to millennial travelers is a bit like dating, Marriott executives say.
Begin advertising yourself too heavily and you’ll come across as desperate. Wait too long and you’ll lose the other person’s interest.
To that end, the Bethesda-based hotel company says it has found a happy medium: Marriott Traveler, a new Web site that offers travel tips, destination guides and information on local art, food and music. The idea, executives say, is simply to inform potential customers during the early stages of their trip-planning, when they’re still trying to figure out whether to visit a certain city.
Eventually, Marriott hopes to guide customers toward booking a room at one of its 4,000 hotels. But first, it wants to help them navigate new cities.
“It’s kind of like being on a first date,” said David Beebe, vice president of creative and content marketing at Marriott. “If all you do is talk about yourself, there’s not going to be a second date. You’ve got to ease into it and ask questions about the other person.”
The Web site, which launched Monday, includes information about New Orleans, Chicago and Orlando written by area journalists, Marriott employees and YouTube personalities. Current articles include guides to the best gumbo, handcrafted cocktails and parks in New Orleans. Marriott plans to expand into other cities in coming weeks.
“It’s really about a shift in how a marketing team should work,” Beebe said. “We need to provide value [to customers] first and go after the sale later.”
The site is part of the Marriott Content Studio, founded in September to create and market videos, Web sites and other materials to younger travelers. Beebe would not say how much Marriott was investing in the new initiative but said the company planned to eventually sell advertising on Marriott Traveler so it would become a stand-alone source of revenue.
“It will very much become a business like our [in-room] magazines are today,” Beebe said.
The company is looking to other forms of entertainment as well. Two weeks ago, Marriott released a 15-minute short film, “Two Bellmen,” on its YouTube channel. The comedy, about two J.W. Marriott employees who thwart an art heist, has racked up 3 million page views to date. Two sequels are in the works, Beebe said.
“We’re already seeing a lot of engagement in terms of people liking it and associating it with the brand,” Beebe said. “But we’re doing it in a way that isn’t all about us.”