Marriott refers to one of the biggest hotel brands in the nation, which took truly in many ways represents the American dream and the American spirit of entrepreneurship and development. The company had very humble beginnings, starting in 1927 from an A&W Root Beer stand in Washington DC by J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott: over the next 30 years is developing into a full food service business (JW Marriott, 2013). The Marriott group further embodied American values of hard work and productivity in that "For the next fifty-eight years -- until his death in 1985 -- J. Willard Marriott rarely rested. Whether adding locations, perfecting procedures or expanding into new enterprises, Marriott breathed, ate, and lived his company" (JW Marriott, 2013). This is a shining example of how the company has used unselfish actions as a means of benefiting humanity and building a stronger brand and company name for themselves.
Background of IMC
Integrated marketing communications (IMC) has a range of definitions depending on who you ask. Real IMC refers to the development of a host of marketing strategies and creative campaigns which can be woven together into a stream of marketing disciplines, such as paid advertising, publicity, strategic promotions, owned and shared assets and social media. These units are connected and then properly executed to help benefit the specific objectives of the brand. This is a more specific and nuanced approach to marketing. This means that instead of harnessing a handful of different forms of media to push forward the brand's overall story, with this type of marketing each form of communication with the hotel brand is leveraged forward in accordance with their inherent strengths so that an overall impact of higher success is achieved. This form of marketing is so successful because the marketer needs to be able to comprehend the limitations of the medium, along with the audience's ability to absorb all forms of communication from this particular medium. This level of comprehension is connected into the campaign's strategic plan from the start: in this manner the brand no longer engages just with a certain level of consistency, but with a higher level of planned efficacy. Together, they can provide bolstered benefits such as a cohesive brand voice and learned experience along with certain cost efficiencies which can be developed through ingenuity and production and opportunities to increase value and bonus.
Marriott International now has a strong portfolio of brands and operates over 3,500 hotels worldwide: "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" (Brier, 2012). Marriott recently revamped their marketing efforts so that their approach was more specific and deviated away from their standard "one-size-fits-all" approach to advertising and marketing and offering control to different franchisers (Brier, 2012). In this technique, each property was given the same level of marketing support from the corporate office, regardless of the location or the name/type (Brier, 2012). "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" (Brier, 2012). This created an overall disjointed effect which made the entire company look somewhat less cohesive.
There was still a range of cohesion to the brand but there were still different takes and renderings of the overall brand, so that it lacked that sense of polish and presentation that other brands possess. This wasn't a debilitating issue, but a significant one, particularly when customer attitudes and preferences began to adapt, it was discovered that corporate marketing techniques need to be altered as well, along with a rebranding movement to help adjust marketing and branding moves for each branch of the market (Brier, 2012). In lieu of this transformed strategy, it was discovered that there needs to be a more superior means of sharing and leveraging all assets, thus, creating a more user-friendly online portal to help balance the development and review of all marketing collateral, bolstering the new standards of the firm (Brier, 2012).
The Introduction of Brandworks
One of the pinnacle developments of Marriott International was the fact that it was able to create BrandWorks as a cutting edge form of IMC 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" (Brier, 2012). However, one of the more brilliant ideas was to engage with the Excella Consulting group to offer project management and business analysis fortitude so that BrandWorks can be more comprehensively integrated throughout the company (Brier, 2012). Such a move prevented the entire BrandWorks approach to be mismanaged and to be imbedded with a greater degree of agility: built out incrementally, with supported value as needed. This turned out to be an ideal perspective for all that Marriott does, because this company fosters and thrives in an information technology environment (Brier, 2012). Fundamentally, BrandWorks was a centered and specific tool that allowed for the IMC of this truly multi-national company to harness a better appeal to specific audiences, such as targeted types of travelers (leisure vs. business, for instance) (Brier, 2012). This type of programming allowed the entire company to flourish immensely doing exactly what they needed to do to capitalize on the possibilities connected with brand guidelines and other strategies so that the most conducive marketing activities would be used properly and cost-effectively throughout markets (Brier, 2012). Using an outside consulting firm in conjunction with the new tool of BrandWorks meant that the IMC was being handled in the most conducive and effective means possible.
Cutting Edge IMC
Just a few years ago, one journalist reported how she was asked by Marriott International to review one of their hotels in a more innovative and modern fashion. As the journalist explains, "All I had to do was regularly update my Facebook and Twitter pages during the course of the overnight stay. As a social networking addict, I would have been doing that anyway. Armed with my laptop and mobile telephone, I hot-footed it to London's Marriott County Hall, and enjoyed a complementary meal for myself and my partner overlooking some of London's finest riverside views and relishing in a meeting-free night in a lovely hotel room" (Nand, 2010). This was indeed a novel approach that Marriott harnessed in order to more aptly leverage IMC and to make the most of these particular capabilities. In this particular case it involved engaging in social networking as a means of grassroots marketing. Rather than marketing with a professional marketing department from within the company, reaching out to journalists who had their own following and fanbase was a more organic way to establish credibility. Just as social media experts have said that twitter is the ultimate "water cooler" online, and a place for people to chat to one another without seeming sale-pitch-y, journalists (if enamored with a given Marriott) can make a similar endorsement to their followers, through the more organic and less abrasive means of social media.
As Osama Hirzalla explained, the VP of brand-marketing for Marriott in Europe, "The idea is to use new social networking to make a connection with the specific audience that are comfortable with using and receiving information via social networks…Travel writers and journalists are key as they are able to articulate the experience in their own words. So the stories tell a lot more than just facts and figures" (Nand, 2012). This was a much gentler way to create buzz for the company at large and to put a focus on the fact that the company had just finished a multi-million renovation across all of the hotels in the UK, which translated to a transformation of guestrooms, meeting rooms, and restaurants along with a range of communal and public areas (Nand, 2012). Thus, what the journalist recounted was fundamentally an attempt within the social media strategy to gravitate away from pricey print campaigns to a place where users generate the buzz of good commenting. "At one point a discussion (to the PR's delight) about 'Marriotts we have known and loved' ignited and people from all corners of the world talked about their favourite Marriott… Hirzalla said they were pleased with the results of the mini-campaign but of course…