The Content material Program That Helped Marriott Weathered the Pandemic

COVID-19 despatched shockwaves via each business. However in journey? It was just like the earth had pulled itself inside out.

It was onerous to know what to do in these early days. Even tougher to know what to say, which is why so many “Our model is right here for you in these unprecedented occasions” emails flooded our inboxes.

However in that sea of platitudes, one message stood out: a video from then-Marriott Worldwide CEO Arne Sorenson getting choked up speaking about how the pandemic would impression associates via no fault of their very own. (Sorenson tragically misplaced his battle with pancreatic most cancers in February, and has been changed by new CEO Tony Capuano). The video was seen thousands and thousands of occasions, and it could have simply been the primary time a Fortune 500 CEO acquired so many overwhelmingly optimistic Twitter responses and YouTube feedback.

However then Marriott had to determine subsequent steps. Communication about security protocols and factors flexibility was essential, however the model’s advertising and marketing workforce additionally knew that their viewers needed greater than memos.

A pivot to “armchair journey”

For years, Marriott had been inspiring vacationers via its flagship publication, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, which began by masking 3 locations in 2014. Immediately, Traveler spans 87 native editions throughout the globe. And simply because there was a pandemic didn’t imply that wanderlust abruptly disappeared. Marriott simply needed to strategy it in another way.

(Disclosure: Marriott Bonvoy Traveler has been a Contently buyer since its launch in 2014.)

“We pivoted our storytelling to deal with armchair journey,” defined Robin Bennefield, Marriott Worldwide’s editorial director of Marriott inventive and content material advertising and marketing.

Robin Bennefield, Marriott Worldwide’s editorial director of Marriott inventive and content material advertising and marketing.

In 2020, the workforce scrapped an editorial calendar beforehand centered on seashore holidays. As a substitute, with the help of its team of trusted freelance Contently writers, Marriott rapidly revealed tales that will gasoline its viewers’s day desires about journey. It confirmed them how to go on a virtual world tour, what trips to add to your travel vision board, and the right way to make their home feel like a luxury hotel.

These tales went out in Marriott Bonvoy Traveler’s April 2020 publication—simply after the editorial workforce went on furlough, reaching almost 12 million folks. The publication averaged a wholesome open price of 15 %. This one obtained a 28 % open price.

“The publication did gangbusters,” Bennefield stated. “I believe that was a lightbulb second for lots of people. They began to comprehend that telling these tales was extra vital than ever to maintain folks within the mindset to dream about journey.”

Native journey for a world viewers

The success of that publication prompted Marriott to carry a part of the editorial workforce off furlough. “Folks realized we have to maintain these tales flowing,” Bennefield stated.

Marriott Bonvoy Traveler has lengthy had a robust enterprise impression throughout the client journey. Traveler tales encourage folks to think about new locations. The good design of the positioning makes it straightforward for Marriott’s viewers to browse lodges and related actions once they’re researching a vacation spot. After folks e book, the positioning’s tales—in addition to its companion print journal—assist them benefit from their journey. Then, as soon as the journey is over, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler sparks inspiration for the following journey.

Regardless of the pandemic, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler’s function within the buyer journey didn’t change. The publication simply wanted to deal with totally different matters. With the assistance of M Stay—the jaw-dropping control room Marriott built in 2015 to trace its viewers’s wants—the model realized that whereas folks weren’t touring far, they had been desirous about staycations, particularly because the summer time arrived and lockdown restrictions loosened throughout the globe.

“They had been keen to discover their neighborhoods and cities once more in ways in which they hadn’t earlier than,” Bennefield stated.undefined

M Stay Studio

As a substitute of inspiring the American traveler to discover Barcelona, as an example, Marriott pivoted to assist Catalans discover the gothic quarter in a manner they hadn’t earlier than, whereas nonetheless emphasizing security. That is the place having such a world content material advertising and marketing program (Marriott Bonvoy Traveler will quickly be accessible in 11 languages) and the flexibility to scale content material manufacturing via Contently’s platform paid off.

“It has been vastly useful to have Contently as a associate,” Bennefield stated.

Highway journey tales turned a staple as effectively, as an infection charges dropped and other people felt secure touring by automobile.


All alongside, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler’s efficiency climbed. Publication open charges remained above 20 %—a 33 % enhance on pre-pandemic benchmarks. It generated $777,000 of search visitors worth, almost 4 million minutes of consideration time, and a whopping 80 % engagement price, as measured by Contently Analytics.

“We rely closely on Contently’s engagement metrics,” Bennefield stated. “It’s a extremely sturdy option to measure how deeply individuals are staying with us and fascinating with that content material.”

The content material can be driving a really vital quantity of reserving conversions—a lot in order that the content material program pays for itself and is even “doing a bit higher than that,” stated Bennefield fortunately. “That’s what everybody desires to see.”


Heading into the latter half of 2021 and 2022, Bennefield and the workforce are desperate to proceed to develop its content material ambitions via a trio of participating podcasts:

  • About the Journey, which explores the inspiring stops and tales alongside Marriott Bonvoy Traveler’s favourite routes.
  • Let’s Talk Points, a podcast for factors aficionados.
  • Behind The Design, which interviews prime lodge designers on the most recent developments and improvements.

“We actually wish to develop this audio type of storytelling,” stated Bennefield. “We all know that increasingly more individuals are consuming podcasts.”

Bennefield can be desperate to return to a world lens. Meaning inspiring vacationers to discover locations they perhaps haven’t thought of earlier than, by way of tales like Ghana Rising—a long-form piece of parallax storytelling that feels prefer it was produced by The New York Occasions.


“We’re enthusiastic about being on the desk after we’re speaking in regards to the broader buyer journey and infusing that traveler ethos into extra of our experiences—to lend our experience within the storytelling,” stated Bennefield. “I’m actually excited in regards to the totally different codecs that we’re embarking upon.”

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