Hotels are at present, at the start of an historic transformation – and it focuses on content.
Major Hotel chains are now marketing with content – that is, going beyond the traditional sales pitches and instead enhancing their brands by publishing or sharing relevant information, ideas, and entertainment that guests will value. The success of content marketing has radicalized the way hotels and resorts communicate. For innovative brands, an award-winning Tumblr now carries serious clout; hashtag campaigns have become as compelling as taglines; and the Digiday Awards are as coveted as the Stevies. The content marketing revolution signals more than a mere marketing fad. It marks an important new chapter in the history of tourism communications: the era of corporate enlightenment.
The phenomenon of content marketing and brand publishing has unfolded rapidly because it responds to consumer preference. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of people would rather learn about a company via an article than an ad. Even The New York Times admits that native advertisements can perform as well as the paper’s own news content. Brand publishing allows companies to react in real time, provide increased transparency, and create a strong brand identity at a fraction of the price of traditional marketing tactics, and in less time.
Yet where brand publishing has had the most profound impact is in empowering organizations to create, facilitate, and leverage the ownership of ideas. That’s largely because great sponsored content is born from a company’s exchange of proprietary knowledge.
When it’s done right, brand publishing encourages hotels to mine internal resources and expertise in order to become intellectual agents. Today, large chains like Marriott recently announced (http://traveler.marriott.com) are becoming their own media companies, news bureaus, research universities, and social networks.
The rise of in-house broadcast further illustrates this. Big chains are recruiting top-talent journalists in droves and implementing the most successful aspects of the traditional media houses. Why? Because trained journalists and writers are in the best position to synthesize information, capture a reader’s attention, and uphold a critical editorial standard. That means establishing an organizational complex that pairs great writers with better editors and incorporates a discerning chain of command, with a managing editor at the helm.
Yet, it would be misguided to assume that corporations are simply transplanting the traditional newsroom. Branded content is a brave new world and a brand’s editorial team, regardless of how it’s organized, must learn to live and breathe a company’s bottom line while also being mindful of the kinds of stories that appeal to readers. The editorial organization within a corporation has to be independent enough to form unique perspectives, but embedded enough to access exclusive information.
This kind of commitment to storytelling and editorial integrity, albeit shaped by sponsorship, is undoubtedly how content marketing has begun to encroach on the whole of marketing. Content, it seems, has miraculously given brands a greater purpose.
Brands are no longer merely peddling products; they’re producing, unearthing, and distributing information. And because they do, the corporation becomes not just economically important to society, but intellectually essential as well.
Red Bull is a clear demonstration of the extraordinary results great brand publishing can bring. The company’s top-notch content resulted in the creation of an in-house content production arm, Red Bull Media House. Red Bull crafts content that isn’t just compelling, but lucrative in its own right, launching an entirely new ideas-based business for the beverage company.
Content, when it aligns with exemplary brand publishers of our time, gives hotels a new opportunity that didn’t necessarily exist in the last century. Conventional wisdom told hotels to keep knowledge quiet, to put “trade secrets” under indefinite embargo and to let exclusive information gather dust in corporate archives. But with the advent of the Internet, social media, and the dispersal of knowledge in every direction, corporations are in the unique position to distribute the information they’ve gathered in exchange for audiences, readership, and brand loyalty.