Making Hollywood-quality content is great, but should not be the end goal for brands setting up their own content studios or making big-splash investments in content marketing.
“Our mission is to be good in business using content, not in content,” said Tony Chow, APAC director of creative and content marketing for Marriott International, speaking at last week's MarketingPulse conference in Hong Kong.
That may sound rich coming from the hotel chain that set up its own content studio in 2014 with lavish ambitions to licence its content, but Chow is quick to emphasise that the ROI was always brand loyalty. To that end, storytelling is one of the more effective ways to reach fickled-minded consumers, he said.
“Right now if you don’t have loyalty, it’s going to be harder and harder to compete in the marketplace, even though we have 30 brands,” said Chow.
Citing American Express as an example of a brand using content marketing effectively, Chow said that content is not a short-term game. “You can’t expect it to be an instant, overnight success," he said. "Content marketing needs a long-term investment. Building trust and loyalty is a relationship, just like falling in love, going through the whole courtship before getting married."
Having a content studio and being its own publisher is one way for Marriott to grow its audience organically, Chow told Campaign Asia-Pacific after his on-stage appearance. Having said that, he agreed that paid media provides a good balance in driving awareness and audience to the brand’s distribution channel. “We want to focus on our own platform to engage more with our consumers, tell them about our new developments," he said. "A part of the process about getting loyalty is building a community."
In terms of content that audiences will find engaging, Chow said storytelling thrives on curiosity, and the hospitality brand did not have to look further than using its own staff as cast. “The best way to tell stories is to leverage on authenticity," he said. "Real stories are more powerful. We want to utilitize people that we don’t see all the time—the bartenders, the chefs. That will build a connection with the audience based on what they experience when staying at a hotel.”
One of the better-known productions from Marriott’s content studio has been its Two Bellmen three-part series, which, as its title suggests, features two bellmen from JW Marriott who came to their guests’ rescue with their jaw-droppping parkour skills. The third release of the series centred on a JW Marriott in Seoul. Although the characters are fictional, Chow explained that all JW Marriott bellmen had in real life undergone a ‘Poise and Grace’ training programme developed by a ballet company.
“Through the series, we want to elevate the JW brand to one that focuses on poise and grace and also to leave a luxurious perception to the brand through all the touchpoints that we show in the film,” said Chow, adding that the differentiation of the JW Marriott has not always been clear from Marriott itself.