When it comes to planning a trip, consumers are likely to use a range of information to help make their buying decisions. But with the internet brings a sea of information, so accommodations are having to get creative with their content to stand out from the crowd.
An audible approach
One way hotels can get their message across is audibly. The popularity of podcasts has grown ten-fold in recent years and according to Edison Research, 51% of Americans aged 12 and over have listened to a podcast. The research also revealed that 54% of consumers would be more likely to consider the brands they hear advertised on podcasts, which is good news for branded series.
InterContinental kick-started the trend in 2016 with its Stories podcast which chronicles the tales behind some of the brand's most historic properties. Marriott soon followed suit with Behind the Design, a creative podcast chatting with its hotel designers, while Hilton launched The Hilton Effect in May this year, which interviews key staff across the company.
"We know that our guests are curious and always looking to enhance their sense of worldliness through learning more about other cultures and gaining new perspectives,” says Ginger Taggart, Vice President, Global Luxury Brands at IHG. “Our Stories of the InterContinental life campaign is built on this insight. Our podcasts take shared values of the brand and our guests, such as connection or empathy, and dives into unique stories in our global destinations that offer a different perspective. We knew from guest insights that our audience enjoys listening to podcasts, and decided to include it as a new medium to reach our guests beyond our video and social creative."
One of the main reasons for brands producing engaging content is to widen the audience bracket. "As part of the broader Stories campaign, the brand managed to increase awareness by 8 percentage points,” says Taggart. “Ultimately we’re looking to create insightful and relevant content for our guests and potential guests, so the increased awareness is a great bonus for us.”
But it's not just the big brands that are investing in audio content. Marrakech Riad, a portfolio of boutique hotels in the Old Town medina, launched its own podcast this summer - recorded on a roof terrace in Marrakech. “We’ve had huge success with our free guest app, the Marrakech Riad Travel Guide, and a podcast was the logical extension,” says Owner, Mike Wood. “Our main audience is first-time visitors to Marrakech which is why we started with episodes on 'what to pack' and 'what to expect in the first 24 hours'. But equally, we have a range of episodes relevant to seasoned travellers or those still considering Marrakech as a destination to visit.”
While a podcast might be an added incentive, does it increase revenue? “We're a leading operator in a booming destination so our challenge at the moment is not filling rooms, our priority is to attract the right guests who will appreciate the medina experience and the boutique product that we offer. Podcasts allow us to deliver a more nuanced message,” explains Wood.
Exploring other mediums
But podcasts are not the only way brands can extend their reach. Over the past decade, blogs have been the traditional go-to for increasing traffic to a site but more often than not they have become SEO-driven projects to impress Google's algorithm. But there are exceptions to the rule. The Four Seasons online magazine has won awards for its premium content, Ace Hotels' new online publication Ace Reader covers art, music, food and travel, while trendy Dutch brand, CitizenM created a series of virtual city guides which can be downloaded to a smartphone to engage their audience through their destinations.
In 2015, Marriott Hotels released 'French Kiss' a short film produced by its in-house creative content studio which tells the story of Ethan and Margaux who meet in Paris. Rather than a 23-minute commercial for Marriott, it's very much story first and brand second. It was released in select theatres in the US and in Marriott hotel rooms, but YouTube was the main platform where it's attracted six million views, while a booking promotion attached to the film brought in more than US$500,000 of additional revenue.
In this day and age, audiences want to be entertained and inspired by a brand's content. Rather than stilted corporate productions and SEO-rich blogs, offering inspiring well-written content or immersive storytelling via these mediums can really give a voice to a brand and in turn build a solid, long-lasting relationship with the audience.
- When planning a trip, consumers use an increasing range of information to help make their buying decisions
- Creating insightful and relevant content can increase brand awareness and net a wider audience
- The popularity of podcasts has grown ten-fold in recent years and offers a chance for hotel brands to get their message across audibly Vlogs and videos offer an alternative way to provide content. But avoid corporate productions showcasing conference space and make it more about immersive storytelling
- The majority of podcasts are consumed via mobile phones, so content needs to be optimised to a specific platform so it can be easily shared