Is Blogging the Correct Channel for Marketing Tourism? Ask Bill Marriott!
So what defines a successful Blog for one of the travel industry’s largest brands? In today’s connected world, the mega brands in the tourism industry cannot afford to hide from new marketing channels that have evolved as consumers spend more and more time online. The question is – what is a tourism marketer to do in a space where the brand message is not always welcome? Should marketers join the conversation, listen and react – or better yet start a Blog themselves?
Enter Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO of Marriott International – one of the largest hotel brands in the world. Mr. Marriott entered the Blogosphere in January of 2007 with much fanfare from the media, and also quite a stir from within the Blogging community. The initial buzz resulted in articles such as this in the Washington Post , which speculated about the purpose of the Blog, and whether or not it was a legitimate forum - or one produced by a really good PR team.
During my presentation at Online Revealed, I was reviewing my thoughts on the effectiveness of a channel such as a Blog from the perspective of users within the blogosphere in general. I was discussing how users interact and navigate through channels such as Blogs, where the rules of engagement are much different than a traditional marketing vehicle such as a website. Typically Blogs (until this point) have not been commercial spaces from a user perspective (or not obviously commercial anyway). I referred to Mr. Marriott’s Blog as something that was not necessarily a good example of a successful Blog.
Well, it seems that Mr. Marriott has forged onward since the Blogs inception, and created a space whereby he can communicate with his customers on a global level, share his experiences, and generate some publicity for the hotel brand giant, as Scott Allison pointed out to me through an online discussion over email. As he had heard of my comments, he immediately reached out to challenge my opinion, and point out the successes of the Blog from a brand perspective. Of course I welcomed the dialogue!
Mr. Allison’s comments were very valid and included the following points:
“Even our competitors have acknowledged the blog as a competitive win for Marriott. Not only has it provided a great channel for customers, it also allows him to very personally communicate things that are important to him. The blog has also encouraged Marriott to expand the initiative to other Marriott executives including our corporate executive chef.”
Marriott Recently launched a new Blog authored by Marriott International’s Vice President, Culinary and Corporate - Chef Brad Nelson “Marriott in the Kitchen – Food, Travel, Thoughts.” This blog is quite impressive and not as obvious with the Marriott brand messages. Chef Nelson’s posts discuss events he attends, food writers he meets, recipes of course – and his travels.
Mr Allison pointed out some additional points in defending the merits of the Marriott branded Blog:
“Because Bill Marriott believes that he is first a foremost a hotelier, one of the side benefits has been the buzz generated by people who blog with him, and then link to a page to make a reservation - revenue from people who came through what wasn't originally intended as a booking channel.
The fact that Marriott remains a family business, rooted in a rich culture of looking after our associates so that they in turn look after our customers is a unique to Marriott. No other leader in the hotel industry has Bill Marriott's credibility and experience from the ground up - he worked in food & beverage operations growing up. Fortunately many people read his blog and interact with us through this exciting channel, and it has definitely contributed to shifting traffic to the brand site with 80% of e-commerce being transacted on .”
Mr. Allison finished off with the following sentiment, of which I would definitely agree with.
“Bill Marriott continues to be the most eloquent spokesperson for our brand, whatever the channel.”
Well Scott – I can’t argue with you! It does seems that Mr. Marriott has taken on this medium with the commitment and tone it requires - and he is engaging discussions with Marriott team members, customers, bloggers and media alike.
If then we are referring to the success of the Blog as a marketing vehicle, and as a successful and true “Blog” – I would now have to agree that Bill Marriott’s “Marriott on the Move” just might qualify as a great success!
About the author: Alicia Whalen is the co-founder of and - recognized as the prominent hospitality and travel Internet marketing strategy consultancy firm in Canada and beyond. She has also developed a successful online tourism marketing Blog; and continues to educate about search engine optimization and Online Marketing best practices with the “Chicks” popular e-Marketing workshops and speaking engagements. Together, the “Chicks” have published over 30 articles on search marketing best practices and they are currently working on their first Online Marketing Guide to be published this spring 2008.