Marriott International had an idea for Coachella in 2017 that no hotel brand had ever attempted before. The brand provided festival attendees and Marriott Rewards members with a chance to stay in one of eight safari-inspired tents. Each tent was created to look and feel like rooms from some of the company’s portfolio of lifestyle brands, including Moxy Hotels and Aloft Hotels.
The activation was a major hit. So much so that Marriott decided to return to Coachella in 2018 for an equally exciting opportunity. Instead of tents, Marriott is offering guests a chance to stay in yurts, a circular tent, decked out with all the essential music festival necessities including Wi-Fi, a private restroom and shower, a stocked minifridge and 24-hour security. Marriott is modeling this year’s yurts on W Hotels & Resorts locations in Dubai, Barcelona, Bali and Hollywood.
“Everything we are seeing now is all about the experiences,” said Ed Horne, evp of Endeavor Global Marketing, which partnered with Marriott on its 2017 activation at Coachella as well as the latest effort. “It is all about elevating the experience and sharing that out socially and digitally with your friends and followers.”
Instead of paying with real money for the yurts, Marriott opened a bidding platform on SPG Moments on Starwood’s website—Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts in September 2016—and let members bid for the rooms using their accumulated loyalty points. The yurts went for as many as 822,500 points.
So why does Coachella make so much sense for a brand like Marriott?
“It really is the right audience for a hospitality company in the sense that these are people with disposable income that will travel for music festivals, they are traveling for their passion points,” said Jennifer Utz Ilecki, vp, buzz marketing and partnerships for Marriott International, adding, “What we have found over the last few years is that by tapping into those passion points, whether it’s music or spots or some other form of entertainment, there’s an awesome opportunity for us to infuse our brand into the overall experience to just enhance what guests are experiencing when they show up at a music festival or an event.”
The W Hotels tie-in is particularly interesting considering the brands’ commitment to music. There are a handful of global music directors within the hotel brand and all the public spaces in W Hotels pay special attention to music.
Three of the four locations the yurts are modeled after, Barcelona, Bali and Hollywood, are equipped with sound suites where artists can go and record songs or albums while on the road. The Dubai location, The Palm, doesn’t open its doors to guests until September, but that W Escape location will also be outfitted with a sound suite. The Dubai yurts were not part of the overall auction and are open to media throughout the first weekend of Coachella.
What made the Marriott activation so successful last year (and will hopefully keep up the buzz at the festival this year) is the flawless execution, according to Horne. “[Marriott] is spending so much time making sure there is alignment between the brand and with the audience and also creating an environment within an environment that makes it feel seamless,” Horne said. Often at these types of events, brands simply set up shop, slap their logo on a tent and hand out some free stuff. That, he said, can be damaging to a brand.
In addition to the exclusive yurts, Marriott will also have a loyalty tent open to all festival attendees in the general admission area of the festival.