Meet the Brand Storytellers: Q&A with Marc Battaglia, Executive Creative Director at Marriott I
Marc Battaglia is an award winning global creative executive and content marketing leader. Currently he is the Executive Creative Director of Global Creative + Content Marketing for Marriott International, where he is in charge of leading creative for the internal agency and content studio for Marriott’s 30 brands worldwide, across 5,700 properties in 110 countries on 6 continents. We sat down with Marc to discuss the inception of the Marriott Content Studio, the Marriott/Starwood merger, and how the company sees itself now and in the future:
Tell us a little bit about the history of the Marriott Content Studio? What components make up the studio? The history of the Marriott content studio is still young - it's a three-year-old history but its been supported from day one by the C-suite, and that's probably the most important component of it; from a standpoint of funding, a standpoint of understanding what we're trying to do with branded entertainment and marketing content - that's been key. It was also key in putting together certain specific capabilities. So when we say the word content, a thousand things come to mind, but we were pretty strategic in what we meant by content.
That meant everything from launching an editorial platform with Marriott Traveler, which is a pure editorial lens offering consumers information on what to do, where to go, and how to do it. Not so much about, “hey, you must stay here”, but, “when you’re here, these are things to check out”.
The other part of it is real-time marketing, which is our M Live component, which has several newsrooms around the world. That is all about creating real-time content to inject ourselves into the zeitgeist of the culture from a real-time standpoint. If something’s trending, we have producers who are identifying those trends and then jumping into those conversations in a way in which it is relevant and non-intrusive, but also brings it back to our story component.
We’re doing things like “Surprise & Delights”, where we can see people who are celebrating something at one of our hotels while using our hashtags on social media, and send them a bottle of champagne to say congratulations. We can actually be a part of their celebration in a very quick time frame. What we get back from them is social love - when they take a photo of the champagne as it comes down to the pool, we immediately get that social love back, and create relationships like that on a one-on-one basis.
And then there’s the Brand Studio/Content Studio which is making everything from long form to short-form animated, comedy, scripted, non-scripted, you name it. It's really agnostic from the standpoint of both platform and format, but works with all 30 of those brands within our company as well. That’s sort of the background when we talk about the Marriott content - it's really divided up in those in those specific areas.
In that time came the merger with Starwood Hotels. They obviously have their own teams and plans, so how did that go? Did it present any sort of opportunities? Challenges? The Starwood merger created a lot more opportunity for us with the growth of our brands and the type of brands that we could also be working with. There was also the aspect of different cultures coming together. You name it - it was all of the challenges and opportunities you would expect with two large groups like that coming together.
We really benefited by bringing in some great folks from that merger on to our team. They already had some great storytellers as part of their group, so we added that group onto ours. What we quickly discovered is that those brands, just as much as our brands, really appreciate what we're trying to do in the content marketing space or try and do in the storytelling space.
These are amazing lifestyle brands. These aren’t just transactional brands, focused on having guests just check in and then leave the hotel - these are brands that want customers to seek these brands out because they affiliate themselves with these types of brands and what they stand for. The sense of culture, the sense of design, the culinary sensibility - every time you walk into one of these brands it’s pretty powerful. For us as storytellers, you can look at it as if we’ve just added a lot more characters to our story. We can now look at all 30 of those brands, roll our sleeves up, and approach them from a storytelling standpoint. The history of Marriott itself reflects an ability for the company to be flexible in various times. They tend to look ahead and are a very future-driven company - does Marriott maintain that flexibility? How do you see yourselves as a company today? This is a company that has been taking risks since day one. They've been looking at not so much of “Are we a hospitality company? Are we (in the early days) a restaurant company?” - they've always had that through-line of being a company about people and putting people first. That guest experience has always been embedded in the DNA of the company.
I think what makes it most amazing is that the company was always looking ahead at what's next and how do you innovate next, how do you change next and evolve? It’s great to work for a company that has a history of doing that. We always joke around about how day one, the company started out as Hot Shoppes, which was literally a 6 stool restaurant in DC, and from there it just kept building as to “what else can we add, what else can we innovate from here,” and I think that's really kind of where the Content Studio perspective comes in as well. It was the next evolution of where we were going.
The point is that today we look at ourselves as a travel company, not as a hotel company. I think that's a big differentiator for us. When we go and talk to people or we're talking to various partners, it’s a big deal to say, “hey, we think of ourselves as a travel company.” When you say that, you start to think differently as a team. Because it is about why we travel, how we travel, all the reasons we travel, the passion points, culinary, art, food, music – all of those things are great fertile ground for us as storytellers, and to really embrace the reasons why you travel, and then bring it back to our branch from that perspective, is the overarching theme we continue to remind ourselves of as a travel company.
Marc Battaglia has a proven track record of building and leading creative teams for content studios and agencies, with expertise in developing and executing branded entertainment, innovative marketing and story driven content that connects with consumers. Currently he is the Executive Creative Director of Global Creative + Content Marketing for Marriott International where he is in charge of leading creative for the internal agency and content studio for Marriott’s 30 brands worldwide, across 5,700 properties in 110 countries on 6 continents. “My philosophy as a Creative Director is simple…It’s not always about having the best idea in the room but rather fueling an environment that encourages the exchange of great ideas and fearless thinking.”
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