Marriott Brand Chief Puts Video Focus on Millennials

Brian King riffs on digital natives

Headshot of Christopher Heine

If all of the ANA Masters of Marketing speakers had digital-addicted family members in either grade school, high school or college to draw upon for analogies, that'd make perfect sense. Because to a person, none could keep the words "millennials" or "digital natives" from popping up over and over again during their presentations here in Phoenix in the last few days.

Brian King, chief brand officer for hotel giant Marriott, wants to talk about that demo, too. And probably for very good reason—those youngsters are the future, after all, and increasingly mobile. And his Washington, D.C.-based hotel brand appears to have a heathly focus on targeting the on-the-go consumer, pushing a mobile app that has been downloaded about 2.5 million times. 

King is presenting during ANA's closing day this morning and gave Adweek a sneak peek into his thoughts on millennials, as well as insights from the "Video Lives 13" research that it recently put together with Tremor Video and SonicRim. In short, he's big on the increasingly multi-lane avenue of marketing opportunities to the young adults—especially when it comes to video and social. 

Does all of the talk of millennials actually ring true in the hospitality sector as much as, say, packaged-goods brands? Secondly, I know you are big into video, working a lot with Tremor. How does video fit for your travel-minded team when tapping a young-demo mindset?
The way millennial children are impacting travel decisions is pretty staggering. Their familiarity and comfort with finding information is completely different than their parents. … Moms and dads used to be a dictatorship, where they were saying, "We are going to see Aunt June." But now kids are like, "But we want to go here, and, how about also this, this, this?" It’s a much bigger family democracy on the leisure side of things. Video helps families decide where they are going to stay. Text and photos don't do the job.

How big is user-generated content to Gen Y?
Co-creation really fascinates them. So, we are actually co-creating the brand differently than we used to. For instance, we have a new campaign called "Travel Brilliantly." We are inviting consumers to help us rethink travel.

Other big brands are doing local video. How about you folks?
Well, we do create video at the corporate level. But interestingly enough, our individual hotels are creating their own videos. And guests love it.

In the digital-native sense, in many cases, because they get to "know" the individual hotel via video, it's probably as if they feel like they actually have met the concierge, right?
[Nods his head in agreement.] The video can be kind of grainy; it is not polished. But customers see it as authentic. Real people where they live. … Millennials love it.

Have long have you tracked brand-specific data for millennials?
This demo has only begun in terms of extensive business travel, so [we started doing] a study about a year ago. And the findings are just tremendous.

Your brand has a healthy emphasis on social CRM. From a marketing standpoint, it seems like Facebook and Twitter are almost like an ongoing customer-satisfaction survey that anyone can see compared to the pencil-and-paper days.
Absolutely. And it's actually real—it’s not a 10-point scale.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.