How Marriott Got Marketing Right

By Steven Brier  |  Posted 2012-01-17

Marriott International operates more than 3,500 hotel properties worldwide under its portfolio of brands. Our evolving lineup includes brands such as Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Edition, Autograph Collection and Courtyard by Marriott, among others. Our properties fall into the following tiers: luxury, collections, lifestyle and boutique, signature, and select service and extended stay.

Until recently, Marriott used a portfolio—or “one size fits all”—approach for our advertising, marketing and branding efforts across disparate locations, which are owned, for the most part, by independent franchisers. For years, each property was offered the same marketing support from our corporate office, regardless of location and brand.

As a result, each property became largely responsible for its own marketing efforts, meaning there was little consistency from location to location, or brand to brand. In addition, many properties did not have the funds to support their own marketing efforts. To make matters worse, we had no easy way to share marketing materials and collateral between our corporate headquarters and our various properties.

As customer attitudes and preferences evolved, we found that our corporate marketing practices needed to change. Consequently, we launched a rebranding effort to tailor our marketing and branding decisions for each unique brand and target market.

To complement this shift in strategy, we needed a better way to share and leverage our marketing assets. In response, we created a user-friendly online portal to manage the creation, distribution and review of marketing collateral, and to support the company’s new brand standards.


Rolling Out BrandWorks

Marriott International rolled out BrandWorks, our easy-to-use, automated online marketing portal, to our properties worldwide in 2007. The portal, developed by Pica9, uses Dell hardware hosting a Linux server that runs Debian 5.0. It runs an Apache 2.0 Web server and PHP 5.3, with PostgreSQL as the database.

The application was developed as an online tool that makes it quick, easy and cost-effective for our properties to create customized marketing materials. Properties, advertising agencies and marketing managers use the portal to share and/or download stock photography, view brand standards and guidelines, download marketing templates and create customized marketing collateral using document wizards.

Soon after the launch, we enlisted Excella Consulting to provide project management and business analysis support to help facilitate BrandWorks’ widespread integration throughout our organization. Excella Con-sulting assessed Marriott’s corporate environment and implemented agile practices across the BrandWorks team.

Excella’s consultants determined that the agile approach—to build, roll out incrementally, prove value as you go along and then gain support—was best suited for Marriott’s blended information technology and business operations environment. The consulting firm also implemented a Microsoft SharePoint solution to manage our product backlog.

With BrandWorks, we honed our marketing strategies to offer each of our distinct brands different programs and strategies to better appeal to its target audiences: leisure versus business travelers, for example. Using the integrated portal, we compiled a comprehensive catalog of updated brand guidelines, templates, strategies, materials and collateral so that our promotions and marketing activities could be implemented properly and cost-effectively across our markets and in international languages. 

Adopting the Corporate Portal

Noting BrandWorks’ early success in our marketing organization, other parts of Marriott International became intrigued, and some started to use the corporate portal to fit their own needs. For example, our human resources department began using BrandWorks to house its internal images, presentations and nonmarketing business templates.

Even our food and beverage unit found value in the portal as it began to store and share menus and information on group sales and event management. Therefore, what began as a simple database of logos and marketing collateral has evolved into a robust, enterprisewide digital asset management system that supports corporate units ranging from operations to legal.

Most recently, we rolled out a centralized offer-management system in BrandWorks. It allows our properties worldwide to create Marriott rewards and nonrewards offers and deals, and then promote them on and in other marketing channels.

The offer management system also supports automated workflow and processes, enabling our users to deliver revenue-generating offers to customers more rapidly. Because BrandWorks has built-in capabilities to tailor offers to distinct audiences, demographics, marketing channels and so forth, more than three times as many offers have been submitted through the portal than were submitted without it.

We are now implementing built-in tracking capabilities to report on promotional programs, as well as automated analyses to identify which offers, programs and marketing campaigns are most successful. In addition, in early 2012 we plan to integrate social media strategies for all our brands and properties into the portal to amplify the buzz around our brands as customers continue to flock to social media to research destinations and lodging options and make travel plans.

Marriott will use BrandWorks to publish offers and deals to corporate and brand sites, as well as to individual property sites. We estimate that using automated processes has cut the time it takes to bring an offer to market by close to 25 percent. 


Signs of Success

Beyond its more obvious applications, BrandWorks has enabled our company to improve information sharing and collaboration among our global locations and corporate teams. Internal users can report on total log-ins, the number of documents and assets currently in the system based on brand and category, and the number of offers created and disseminated through each channel. They also can recall usage data to inform marketing budgeting.

This enables us to determine what tools to activate for each brand and audience to deliver a better customer experience, educate its global properties on brand voice, ensure consistency across locations and languages, and enable executives to make better decisions through direct and immediate access to valuable customer service and marketing data. 

In the past two years alone, Marriott has experienced a 186 percent increase in total user log-ins, while more than doubling the number of assets available in, and documents created through, the portal. 

Within the past 12 months, more than 6,000 users have logged in to BrandWorks, representing all Marriott properties, corporate headquarters and regional departments. Our users are based in 70 countries and territories, and represent 16 different brands. They access the tool remotely through any Internet browser using desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.


Steven Brier is senior manager of field marketing support at Marriott International, based in Bethesda, Md.