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The Marriott is trying to be the next Netflix. Not really, but they are making short films and webisodes. You’d think that a hotel chain trying to get into the film business would be as silly as a company that makes industrial diggers making forays into the fashion world. But like Caterpillar Shoes, Marriott’s studio seems to be working.

In fact, Marriott’s in-house marketing studio not only creates short films and other web-based video content, but it’s also getting them more business. As this article in Contently points out, it’s a unique blend of talent and data that has built this successful strategy.

The Importance of Feedback Loops

All too often, those who create content are separated from those who analyze it. I don’t think it’s anything malicious; it’s just that the jobs require different skills. Yet, as the Contently article shows, when you combine the analytic with the creative you get something very interesting: content that makes money.

In the first few paragraphs, the author describes a day at the office. There are banks of TVs and computer monitors scanning various channels, all set up in a central command of a room. The screens aren’t on to create a sports bar atmosphere filled with noise and distraction, instead they are gathering data.

Each monitor tracks real-time data from consumers. There’s a chair for social media, PR, content marketing and so on. Those who man the various stations are working to measure and amplify the Marriott’s marketing strategy, but they’re also absorbing all that media.

Contently mentions a specific event. One day, a random story appeared on one of the screens. It was about how an anonymous donor was willing to pay $1 million to the person who finds the missing ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz movie. Famously, the prop was stolen and is still missing.

Instead of filing it as interesting, the marketing team decided to do something with it. Two days later, there was a big banner ad in Times Square offering $1 million reward points for a lead.

From a trending story on a website to a very public banner ad, it was the combination of data analysis and creative thought that lead to a successful marketing campaign.

Building similar feedback loops is vital for hotels looking to create successful marketing content strategies. Whether it’s a wall of monitors or free Google Alerts, you need a way to generate ideas and gather data on them.

Overthinking Everything to Death

A joke is like a magic trick: once you’ve seen it, the illusion is gone. When you know exactly what the punchline is, it becomes that little bit less funny. Hear the same joke ten or twenty times over, and soon it’ll be as interesting as stale porridge.

When it comes to creating content, the longer you live with it, the less exciting it becomes.

So how does one avoid the trap? The answer is to move quickly. Going back to the ruby slippers, the entire marketing team got the whole campaign up in only a few days, commenting that in the past they had to wait months for approval.

Quickly does not mean sloppy. Make sure what you have is quality; just don’t spend too much time on the minutia.

Be Better Than James Bond

The new Bond movie came out earlier this month. With it, the usual articles about the movie having too much product placement quickly followed.

It comes as no surprise that audiences don’t like being advertised to. Having James Bond take time out from spying to drink and comment on the superb taste of a Smirnoff vodka martini isn’t why people are watching.

The Marriott marketing team points out that, in the past, other hotels with similar in-house studios have made the misstep of pushing their own products and services too much.

The studio might start out with the best intentions, but following the self-promotion path eventually transforms a studio into one just churning out advert after advert. If people are tuning in to watch what was advertised as a short film, movie, etc., they don’t want to see an advertisement masquerading as a film. It reminds me of the FIFA movie that only made $918 on its opening weekend. The reason: it was a public relations advert paid for by FIFA. Who would want to watch 110 minutes of that?

Get Creative with Your Data

While the Marriott has the resources to fund Times Square banner ads and their own in-house content studio, you’ll be surprised how much you have in common.

It starts with data. You have tons of it already; just look at your web analytics. There you’ll have data showing how visitors interact with your website. That’s the start of your feedback loop. Interpret it and get creative with the data.

Let ideas percolate and once you find a good one, go with it. Get some input from others but don’t get bogged down by overthinking it. Make it, get it out there and maybe try not to push your products too much. That seems to be the Marriott method, and it’s actually working.

Do you think the Marriott’s strategy will work in the long-term? If not why? Want to learn more about digital marketing? Check out our digital marketing strategy page.