For 20 years Tony Chow made and distributed TV programmes and commercials so what is he doing running content marketing for Marriott International in Asia Pacific and what opportunities does that present for other content creators in the region?  Tony sat down with me to discuss Marriott’s content strategy and how creators can get involved.  Listen to our conversation or read about it below:

Marriott International, the global hotel and hospitality group that incorporates 19 different brands, may be turning 90 next year but is not about to settle into its dotage.  Marriott is on a mission to turn itself from a pure hospitality play into a media brand and they started in 2014 by hiring former Walt Disney Studios executive David Beebe who was charged with building a content studio at their headquarters in Washington DC.  That studio now employs 65 former media industry types and now it’s Asia’s turn with Tony Chow taking the helm as Head of Creative & Content Marketing.

The studio was founded on the philosophy that brands will be the next media companies…our job is to think like a publisher…our job is to think of the company as a media company.

If you’re not yet familiar with the term, #contentmarketing is the relatively recent phenomenon of brands creating the types of content they only used advertise next to.  “We want to bring the Marriott brand into a new space using content as the key gateway to engage our consumers and our guests”, is how Tony puts it, but why?  Because content drives owned audiences and data for Marriott as well as creative assets that can be monetised in a multitude of ways. It’s a whole new revenue opportunity for Marriott as well as content creators including producers, writers and directors who can pitch to co-create content that, “doesn’t hard-sell the brand but uses the brand as an enabler to tell stories.”  What kind of stories though?

Tony has adopted a content strategy pioneered by YouTube called Hero, Hub & Hygiene, which requires different stories for different purposes.  You can download the YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands free, but it in brief it looks like this:


Tony’s boss David Beebe got the ball rolling with a Hero series called Two Bellmen about a pair of crime fighting bellhops starring Hollywood talents including Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire fame.  The first instalment was set in LA, the second in Dubai (with Freida) and the third will be produced by Tony in Asia. Here’s the trailer for part one:

Another successful piece of Hero content was pitched by a pair of producers in Paris.  A simple love story, French Kiss, dove-tailed perfectly with Marriott’s “Surprise & Delight” promotion and garnered 5 million views, which in turn contributed to an increase in demand and online bookings – a key measure of Return On Investment (ROI).  “There are two parts to content ROI,” says Tony, “how we develop content, become thought leaders, own the space of travel and lifestyle and syndicate our content out to related channels…and the second part is the transactional value we’ll have in the long term by driving conversation and increasing revenue and commerce.”

So, what’s the opportunity for content creators?  Well, Marriott has no internal crew, only strategists and executives whose job it is to find concepts worth co-creating just like a Hollywood producer.  This is a brand new model for brands.  Previously they might sponsor content and get a credit at the begining and end i.e. “this episode of Whatever is brought to you by Canon – delighting you always”.  Tony’s not interested in that.  He wants to get involved; he wants to develop, produce and own content that Marriott can monetize and he is open to ideas, “we want to welcome more creators with ideas to come forward” he says.  But, like any channel or studio, you need to know a bit about who you’re pitching to.

Marriott in Asia owns nine brands including Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, Marriott Hotels, Courtyard Marriott, Renaissance, Fairfield and Autograph Collections with more to come, particularly in China where Marriott is launching a hotel every two weeks!  Their focus is on millennials or “next gen travellers” for whom loyalty is trumped by instant gratification and whose interests go beyond video, which is why Marriott is also working with online influencers to co-create and curate music.  In the future Tony predicts Marriott may well release albums of music from their hotels.  “That’s truly the thinking of a media company”, he states.

Like a lot of global brands Marriott’s best work to date has come out of the US because, in the US, you can address 300 million people with common values in a single language.  Asia Pacific is a little more complex, “the kind of content that China might like is very different to Southeast Asia,” offers Tony, “localisation is another thing but we need to have the right content to localise…what I am doing right now is actually creating the strategy for our own voice, the Asian voice.”

As a producer and founder of a content marketing agency myself I am delighted to hear that Marriott is putting its money where is mouth is and making significant investments into original Asian content and I can only hope more brands follow suit and open themselves up to a whole new world of talent.  Keep up with Marriott’s groundbreaking work below:

Picture credit: SoulRider.222

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Written by Neal Moore

Co-Founder & Content Director at award-winning content agency Click2View. Filmmaker and blogger at Moore's Lore Media.

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