“Everything is copy.”
Beyond When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Heartburn, Nora Ephron’s greatest contribution to my life was those three simple words: “Everything is copy.” And not just because I’m a copywriter. But… As a copywriter, my brain catches it like a perfect toss and knows immediately what she means: Everything is material. Turn it into a laugh, a cry, a scream, just turn it into something, preferably a good story; some content that connects.
In the words of Hilton CMO, Mark Weinstein: “Marketing travel is probably the easiest category in the world. Marketing a travel brand is probably the hardest.”
But … should it be?
Creating content that connects is the job of all creators – brands, too. The following four tips are an invitation to anyone on the other side of brand content to feel a little more free and inspired by the eternal content creation process, using one simple guide: your own brand strategy.
1. Use your brand as a lens into your world
Part of why we love some brands so much, particularly luxury and travel brands, is their point of view. How they design. Create an experience. Tell stories. They’re all rooted in their brand strategy. And price point aside, this is all we have to rely on to answer the question we pose, consciously or not: “What world do I want to be invited into?”
I can think of a few worlds.
Here are some star examples of hospitality marketing gold that clearly invite guests into a world worth seeing and experiencing firsthand.
Design: Cuixmala, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Located in the Chamela Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Cuixmala’s marketing team has plenty of material to work with. The eco-luxury resort comprised of a biodynamic farm, private beaches, and thousands of acres to roam is absolute eye candy from every angle. I highly recommend scrolling its Instagram on days you just need some beauty.
Something especially noteworthy about its brand content is the incredible amount of focus not placed on the hotel, but the local nature and culture. Somehow, the stunning environment surrounding the hotel expands and elevates the design within the hotel. To prove my point, even Architectural Digest described it this way: “Nothing is more exciting than seeing a house that looks like a fantasy movie. This is the feeling when seeing Casa Cuixmala but the environment is even more idyllic than the construction.”
Stories and scenes of local wildlife (spoonbills, crocodiles, ZEBRAS), local produce, local musicians and farmers create layers of beautiful textures that complement the resort’s embrace of large, open-air spaces and design and decoration authentic to Mexico.
Experience: Habitas Alula, Saudi Arabia
Habitas Alula, a sustainable desert resort, is another jaw-dropping front-runner for design, but what makes its experience world-class is its creative use of the elements (and trust me, they feature very boldly in its content and marketing strategy). The brand strategy and ethos of Habitas revolves around removing barriers between guests and nature, so naturally, you don’t bring in equipment, you use the equipment nature’s given you. And sometimes, that’s canyon walls.
In the Middle East’s Hotel and Catering News, Habitas Alula’s outdoor cinema experience reflects its brand strategy: “Set against the otherworldly canyon backdrop, the activity is designed as part of Habitas rich programming to bring guests closer to nature and cement bonds between one another.” It’s true that experiences are highly emotional and therefore memorable for guests. Considering the canyon cinema is only one of several other experiences – desert floor trampolines, a mirrored monolith, art installations – it’s easy to believe that Habitas Alula has found a way to capture the imagination of its guests, and keep them coming back for more.
2. Make your values visual
One of the most fulfilling aspects of working on a hospitality brand is seeing how the brand strategy directly translates to the brand experience (as just seen by Habitas Alula).
Guests can experience “authenticity” very clearly. They can touch and feel and see “sustainability” in materials, in the instructions to save water by using your towels more than once, in recycled products on their bedside tables and sinks. And they can certainly tell if “We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance.” Emphasis on “the finest personal service.”
That’s the second paragraph of the credo of The Ritz-Carlton. Why I bring it up is because … the Ritz-Carlton has one of the most famous approaches to customer service I’ve ever heard of (and would love to experience one day): It empowers its employees to spend up to $2,000 per guest, without approval, to resolve any issue.
Now, such a case is obviously tricky for marketing. No brand’s going to snap a photo of a $2,000 receipt and share it on Insta to prove a point. But what the Ritz-Carlton could do is capture guest stories that give a slight nod to the customer experience. Like Joshie the Giraffe, for one.
Find examples of people doing what you want in serving guests. Share those stories widely. It’s not only a great form of recognition, but the approach reinforces that it’s encouraged to capture moments of your brand expressing what you value most.
3. Prove the details are a big deal
The difference is always in the details, right? That’s brand strategy brought to life.
Case in point Hilton’s viral platform: “For the Stay.” Described by the brand as its version of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, the platform drives home a number of benefits (details) when you stay with Hilton. Like… extra storage for Paris, for one, or relief from nightmare homestays for another.
Using humor to push against some of the common but unspoken pitfalls of travel, the platform places the hotel front and center, elevating the role and importance of the stay at a time when lodging advertising is a sea of sameness, featuring overused destinations, cliché walks on the beach, and generic descriptions of travel. And they’re making sure platform will permeate nearly every consumer touchpoint, from broad-reaching consumer advertising through the travel planning process and the guests’ stay with Hilton, as well as post-stay.
So while the Hilton has Paris Hilton to explain the portfolio of Hilton perks, and DoubleTree has its free, warm chocolate chip cookies, and the Ritz-Carlton has its $2,000 allowance to solve guest quandaries, every hotel has its opportunity to define its attention to detail too. The answer is always in the brand strategy.
4. Place people on a pedestal
When I say “people,” I’m kind of referring to everyone: those who work for and represent the brand, as well as the people patronizing the brand. The point is to capture the essence of both audiences: their humanity, their attention to detail, and their taste for the finer things in life (and in your hotel). And that doesn’t always have to mean you, the brand ambassador, gets behind the lens.
Some big brands have eventually given up total content control, and allowed guests to be co-creators. Here’s Hilton CMO, Mark Weinstein’s perspective: “What’s really uncomfortable as a brand initially, but is really powerful, is letting other people tell our story. As a brand marketer, that’s a little scary — to lose control over what’s being said about you. But there’s nothing more authentic than somebody else telling the story of their stay. I believe in our product, and I believe in our team members, so losing a lot of control for a lot more authenticity is the right tradeoff.
In another example, The Ritz goes so far as to feature its own people in the “I am Ritz-Carlton” content series. From chefs and managers to exceptional concierge, they provide personal back stories into the lives of the staff that provide their extraordinary service.
So from creating people-focused content to choosing the right collaborators to co-create content with you, doing that successfully always comes down to following your brand strategy, consciously including your values, and getting creative about your angle of storytelling.