Marriott believes its hybrid in-house agency called Marriott One Media (M1M), set up in June 2018 and part of Publicis’ 'Power of One' model, will help it better protect the data of its consumers, says Alan Tsui, vice president for digital and loyalty for Asia Pacific.
M1M is anchored by Publicis’ agencies SapientRazorfish and Spark Foundry, which work with Marriott’s internal media teams around the world to buy media and target consumers programmatically for the largest hotel chain in the world.
This is similar to the model that Publicis has set up for Daimler AG, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz called Publics Emil.
“Through this dedicated agency, we have the necessary security and assessment and framework in place to give the agency more data access,” Tsui explains to The Drum on the sidelines of Innovfest Unbound.
“It is one of the key reasons because if it's just a third-party agency, there can be concerns over data privacy. So it's a private approach, which is why we haven't taken every marketing function in-house.”
The focus on handling data properly is crucial as Marriott was recently handed a £99m fine by European regulators under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for a data breach that lasted over four years, from 2014 to 2018, and exposed in the region of 339m guest records globally. The chain is appealing the decision.
Tsui also points out that there is governance around the data with this model and M1M functions like an extension of the core Marriott team, which means there is a sense of responsibility when handling the data.
In addition, the benefit of having M1M is having a good relationship with Publicis, which translates into Marriott having better control of its media spend for omnichannel marketing.
“I don't think offline marketing is going to disappear completely, especially when big brands like Marriott have to focus on the upper funnel and on the metric of the message recall,” says Tsui.
“For those, there's always going to be offline marketing right? The benefit of this is we can also leverage the rates because the big out of home marketing channels, or for cinema, the rates are much better than us buying it directly.”
For example, for upper-funnel activity Marriott ties its brands with its travel program Marriott Bonvoy to explain to consumers the uniqueness of every brand it has, even in the luxury category, like its Saint Regis or Ritz Carlton hotels, to ensure they use its travel program and stay in its hotels.
For lower-funnel activation, where Marriott believes people have weaker travel intent because they want to shop around before making a decision, the chain relies on data to showcase different destinations.
“If they're looking for a beach vacation or the Maldives or they are looking to go to Japan for snowboarding or skiing, it means they are lower-funnel. That is when we are really pushing to convert and try to show them exactly what they want,” explains Tsui.
“I think that's how we look at our marketing framework. Obviously, there's a lot more we can do that we are investing heavily in, like post-booking, how can we personalize that experience.”
When it comes to collecting the first-party data needed to understand where its consumers are in the marketing funnel, one of the methods Marriott uses is PlacePass, a travel technology platform that the chain invested in 2017, to offer travellers an online meta-search platform for in-destination experiences.
The platform allows travellers to choose more than 100,000-plus localised experiences in 800 destinations worldwide when they book directly on Marriott’s and its subsidiary Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide’s websites, or their respective apps.
“We are trying to enrich the whole travel experience right, so in this whole travel journey, the data you need to use is slightly different,” says Tsui.
“For example, if you're a pre-stay guest or someone with travel intent, then obviously we work with our big partners like Adara and Sojern or Google, where travel intent comes up. Sometimes we are even looking at second-party data partnerships with our airline's partners because we have 40 airline partners globally.”
He adds: “Once you book the stay then we work with our other partners like Hertz, you can book cars, in addition to the tours and activities. That is a completely different methodology because we know they already stayed with us and we are leveraging on that data.”
Marriott is careful with how M1M uses the data it has collected to target consumers, says Tsui, because it wants to create an enhanced experience for its consumers with its messaging and ads.
The next step, he explains, is examining the data sources because it is not keen to buy third-party data.
“Do we need a partner, do we need to buy third-party data? We start from the use cases and then we build backward,” he explains.
“For martech, I don't think we build anything in-house, which is why we are working with all of the major vendors out there. It's very contentious, even internally about whether we go all-in with one vendor or split up with vendors but pay a lot more money to integrate those platforms."
“Everyone debates this and I don't think there's a right or wrong answer, but I think generally what we try to do is look at vendors that are there to build a martech tool and their core business is martech.”
For example, Tsui says Marriott is concerned about using free tools, like Google Analytics, because the chain would be locked with ads within the Google ecosystem.
“That is why we try to work with companies that actually built the product and owns the portability so that we are not tied with one media party,” he adds.
This is part of The Drum's Marketer of the Future coverage for 2019. You can read our coverage here.