Marriott Brings Customer Hospitality To Inhospitable Digital Media

Marriott is reshaping its marketing strategy around a customer identity graph called Flywheel the hotel chain developed to turn its segmented customer funnel into a single pipeline.

Marriott began working on Flywheel last year to map its 100-million member loyalty program to Facebook audiences and targeting signals, like travel searches or when people are in the airport. Andy Kauffman, who developed Flywheel and will be promoted to Marriott’s SVP of global marketing optimization beginning in January, said he hopes to extend Flywheel into Marriott’s broader marketing and operations.

“The focus is on bridging customer experience into the traditional marketing funnel,” Kauffman said. “We can’t look at Marriott’s needs in silos anymore.”

For instance, Marriott’s loyalty team, its brand marketers and a team tasked with filling empty rooms could all be disconnectedly chasing the same people.

Flywheel has helped Marriott’s marketing department de-emphasize the objectives of specific teams by providing a more comprehensive view of customer identity.

The new approach “starts and stays with the individual and should map to what we understand about that person,” Kauffman said.

Whether someone is a rewards member or has previously downloaded the Marriott app and even details about previous stays and hotel preferences should all dictate the sequence of marketing, he said. And that’s only possible when Marriott can hold a single view of identity across media.

Marriott’s Flywheel has so far been applied to Facebook, but the brand wants to enable personalization and tracking beyond the social platform. That effort has also reshaped Marriott’s tech and media vendor roster, since other digital environments are less equipped to track individuals.

Kauffman’s group is responsible for relationships with bid management platforms, a DMP, CRM, dynamic creative vendor and agency accounts for media-buying, creative, social, SEO and experiential work.

“We’ve consolidated our technology partners to reduce some of the complexity,” he said. But de-siloing internal teams doesn’t erase the fact that the internet is siloed, and Marriott needs a long bucket brigade of partners to hold customer identity intact when campaigns move on from Facebook’s data pool.

“The parts of our media mix getting the most attention and investment right now are those that can enable that degree of addressability and personalization,” Kauffman said.

Paid social media and Marriott’s affiliate program are two of its fastest-growing marketing channels, he said, and the company is also ramping up programmatic spend coupled with dynamic creative when it can incorporate personalization from its Flywheel graph.

“The core of the organization is to take the performance mentality we have with digital and apply it across channels,” Kauffman said.

Even when someone has exited the marketing funnel and is a hotel guest, Flywheel helps merge the hospitality experience with a performance mentality, he said. Marriott can incrementally increase the value of a room stay by, say, targeting drink offers at the hotel bar based on someone’s preferences from previous trips.

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