‘Digital mktg exploded after covid; social media key too’

‘Digital mktg exploded after covid; social media key too’

New Delhi: As the hospitality sector sees a boom, Marriott International, the US hospitality major that operates, franchises and licenses hotels, wants to go big with its India-specific campaigns. Khushnooma Kapadia, area director of marketing for Marriott International, said that weddings and food and beverage are increasingly critical to the success of hospitality companies, and Marriott is responding by developing customized high-impact campaigns. Edited excerpts:

How important is marketing as a function at a hospitality firm?

Within the hospitality domain, marketing does not necessarily fall into the mainstream. But we realized that without marketing, in such a visually intensive industry, we really couldn’t be out there. So, some of the most visible campaigns were like those around our wedding planning initiative in 2017-18, where we decided to completely overhaul the way we marketed weddings. Weddings were typically just a family gathering and a traditional way of organizing weddings, but we really wanted to rekindle that. We wanted to give it an identity, and at that time Marriott was always considered an international organization; therefore we wanted to give a bit of a local flavor to everything we do. So, we came up with ‘Shaadi by Marriott’. We did an extensive amount of work within the space, we gave it a logo identity and collateral, and it was going to be like a one-stop shop, and we offered it in all of our properties.

Have you seen any visible impact on sales?

Yes, we launched it in a massive way with the designer duo Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, which gave us instant amplification and visibility. We have seen an increase in our weddings between 2017-19. It was clear that creating campaigns on such platforms automatically drives results.

Were there any other notable campaigns?

We have shifted gears to make sure that we will work with food and beverage as one of our important business pillars. And we came up with the whole campaign called ‘Khane Me Kya Hai‘. We shot the entire film in New York with experts in the food and beverage industry, and we saw food and beverage achieve that kind of revenue and growth. We also did a Masters of Marriott, where we collaborated with chefs and have done about eight installments so far where we worked with people like Heston Blumenthal, Massimo Butera, we worked with Marco Pierre White etc. worked, all for the Indian market. .

You also had a try at sports with the Mumbai Indians team in the Indian Premier League. What was it for?

Yes, we are not only looking at the run-of-the-mill options but also looking at expanding and branching our tentacles across different domains. We have partnered with IPL and the Mumbai Indians for the past three years and have seen many sign-ups for our Marriott Bonvoy membership program.

How does influencer marketing work in your domain?

I feel influencer marketing is important. But how much does that translate from a revenue perspective, as far as hospitality is concerned? I’m a little divided on my opinion, simply because we were selling a service, not a problem. I do feel that influencer marketing may have lost its luster. Because there are so many influencers, they no longer maintain that niche. They go for the highest bidders, individuals or for freebies like accommodation, lunch or dinner, and so I don’t necessarily see that kind of loyalty (being built up by them). If you are an influencer or an endorser, you must work closely with one company, and you cannot request other brands. This is what I lack in influencer marketing. Having said that, I wouldn’t completely take away from their effectiveness.

What is your marketing mix like and what mediums do you use?

We are very big on performance marketing. A lot of our weight goes into digital marketing. After the pandemic, it was pretty clear that the space of digital had completely exploded. Social media remains very important. We have a 360-degree approach to what we use in terms of our mix.

If we assume that digital gets the bulk of your marketing spend, then everything else is different. Do you also use newspapers?

It is need-based; for example, in October we wanted St. Regis in Goa to build instant awareness, and a newspaper is something that everyone notices, and the reality is that the recall was huge when we splashed our ads on page one. I’m a big believer in impact advertising. If I have the budget, I would rather go for the high impact proposal rather than doing the small ones because today you can get lost in the abundance of paths.

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