Marriott International is heading to an unlikely destination: Snapchat.
The Bethesda-based hotel company is partnering with a technology start-up to develop travel programming for the app, which allows users to send quick photos and videos to their friends.
The project is part of a broader marketing move within Marriott that includes creating short films for YouTube and piloting a scripted, digital drama in conjunction with Sander/Moses Productions, the production team behind shows such as “Ghost Whisperer.”
“This is a very customer-centric approach to marketing,” said David Beebe, a former vice president at Disney, who was hired to lead Marriott’s new Global Content Studio. “It’s no longer the traditional marketing funnel where brands speak to consumers and control that message.”
The hope, Beebe said, is to familiarize customers with Marriott and eventually sell hotel rooms — but only after providing them with articles with restaurant recommendations, videos of travel tips and other entertainment programming.
“We want to be able to surface content to you and say, ‘Here’s an article about the top five restaurants in Dallas. It just happens to be brought to you by Marriott. And oh by the way, we also sell hotel rooms. Don’t you want to stay with us?” said Beebe, vice president of global creative and content marketing.
A 60-person marketing team within Marriott works on the partnerships, which also includes producing a monthly series of Internet “webisodes” on the company’s site.
For its YouTube programming, Marriott Content Studios is collaborating with JacksGap, a YouTube channel by co-creator Jack Harries, to create three short films on travel throughout the 78 countries where Marriott has hotels.
“In all of these stories, the hotel just acts as a character in these stories,” Beebe said. “It’s not about us inserting ourselves in the middle of it.”
This isn’t the first time the hospitality company has veered into publishing territory. In the 1960s, the company — which started out as a root beer stand on 14th Street NW — produced a weekly comic book that the company handed out in its Hot Shoppe restaurants.
And just last month, Marriott’s Renaissance Hotels partnered with the Creative Coalition, a New York-based nonprofit, to publish “The Art of Discovery,” a book that features 100 celebrities, including Kristen Stewart, Ethan Hawke and Seth Rogen, reflecting on memorable life moments.
“That’s classic content marketing,” Beebe said. “While the studio’s very new, it’s really existed in the company for a very long time.”
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