Last week, I attended my first ANA Digital and Social Media Conference, in San Diego. The speaker lineup piqued my interest, as did the range of brands and industries listed on the agenda.
I am glad to report that the event was well worth my time. Business leaders shared some amazing stories about marketing innovation and customer experience. Key takeaways from companies that really stood out to me follow.
Marriott: Engaging Next-Gen Travelers With New Technologies And Channels
Since I have achieved Gold status with Marriott’s loyalty program, I am very familiar with the hotel’s guest experience across channels, including the web, its mobile app, and the various hotels where I stay for business or pleasure. However, I was not deeply aware of its marketing and customer experience strategy. Jennifer Utz Ilecki, vice president of buzz marketing and global partnerships at Marriott International, delivered an exceptional presentation on this topic.
Some of you may ask, “What is buzz marketing?” According to Ilecki, the team was “formed just three years ago and the new practice focused on getting people to talk about our brands, properties, and loyalty programs in meaningful ways. We do this primarily through digital, social, and experiential campaigns … laser focused on our next-gen experience seeker, our target audience.”
Next, she shared several examples about the role of buzz marketing in driving customer conversations via mobile, social, and on-site guest experiences.
This is what I learned:
• Mobile innovation improves guest services: Marriott has been delivering improvements to its mobile app so that now guests can customize their stay by requesting hotel services via chat or choose from a drop-down menu of the most frequently requested services or amenities, such as more towels or extra pillows.
• Social influencers inspire Millennials: By recruiting social influencers on Snapchat, Marriott is connecting with younger audiences that might not be familiar with the brand. The campaign, known as “6 days and 7 nights,” was hosted by four travel influencers who take audiences on journeys to cool cities such as Dubai, New York, Seoul, and Berlin. Watch the following video to see an amusing example of the content from Jen Levinson as she experienced new food options in Berlin. (For even more adventures, I think Marriott should ask her to head to Hong Kong for her next trip.)
So, what was the result of this effort? According to Ilecki, this campaign “had the highest view-through average across any advertising campaign on Snapchat. That’s not just for Marriott, that’s not specific to the travel industry--that’s for Snapchat as a whole, the most successful campaign they have seen for an advertiser.”
• Location-awareness improves two-way conversations on social: Marriott has set up an impressive social media command center known as “M Live,” which is used to track conversations, trends, global performance, marketing campaigns, and brand reputation across social platforms. The social listening strategy is unique because Marriott also has set up geofences around 6,000 hotels around the world. So when guests are posting to their social networks, including Instagram, Twitter, and Weibo, the M Live center can filter all geotagged social posts and automatically determine whether the traveler is near a Marriott property.
This intelligence enables the M Live team to have a two-way, real-time conversation with guests during their stay. For example, they can provide a surprise gift to a guest that has posted about an engagement celebration at a hotel or address a customer dissatisfaction problem in real time before the guest departs. Watch this video to see M Live in action. By the way, M Live was recently awarded Gold and Silver Creative Data Lions at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.
Kia: Virtual Reality Can Improve Brand Engagement
Although I have always liked cars, I have never really enjoyed the car-shopping process. A trip to the dealer to see the latest models is not at the top of my weekend to-do list. Kia now makes the experience much easier with a smartphone and the power of virtual reality. Eugene Santos, senior manager of digital and social media marketing at Kia Motors America, talked about a VR experience that was developed for the Niro crossover. The experience uses the Kia Viewer, a fully immersive way to experience your vehicle that is inspired by Google Cardboard.
This is what I learned:
• VR drives more time spent than web: Santos shared that the VR experience doubled the amount of time spent by car shoppers versus the website browsing experience.
For Kia’s business, more time spent can help to move buyers from the research phase into the lower funnel, where they decide to purchase the vehicle after evaluating all options.
Intuit: Chatbots And AI Require Brand Humanity
Several brands talked about the use of chatbots for enabling conversations with consumers: Kia provides NiroBot to help address common questions from car shoppers who use Facebook Messenger, Marriott provides chatbots via Facebook Messenger to deliver customer service, and Intuit provides QuickBooks Assistant to help entrepreneurs keep track of small-business finances by using natural language queries.
In addition to launching these digital channels, companies need to think about how they brand the experience. Should we use words like “chatbot” or “artificial intelligence” to describe the interaction? Intuit’s CMO, Lucas Watson, asked the audience to think about this question: “How are you moving your brand from brand identity to brand humanity?”
The key takeaway from his speech:
• Do not define your brand by the technology by which it is delivered: Instead, we should humanize our brand in a different way, giving it a personality, voice, heartbeat, and, ultimately, human connection to the audience.
That’s great advice for marketers who are thinking about ways to integrate emerging channels into their overall brand and marketing strategy.