Marriott ups the ante on experiential rewards

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By: RickFerguson |

Posted on March 17, 2016

Skyft reports that Marriott is upping the ante on experiential rewards for its Elite members with its inaugural sponsorship of the 2016 South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival and a partnership with Universal Music Group (UMG) that will see Grammy nominee Ryan Adams headline a concert series at the hotelier's new JW Marriott Austin property. Adams might not be Kanye, but he'll do.

The move is the latest in a series of moves designed to place the Marriott brand at the centre of an experiential hub for elite members. In addition to the UMG partnership, Marriott has partnered with the Grammies and the MTV Music Video Awards. At SXSW, members will enjoy an elite entry line into the JW Marriott, meet-and-greets with musicians, and other exclusive experiences.

To chronicle these elite events and its partnership with UMG, Marriott has created a content hub called That's Rewarding, featuring exclusive artist's Q&As, video, and other content designed to drive engagement.

We like what Marriott is doing with its UMG partnership: delivering high-impact, buzzworthy experiences to elite members. So committed is Marriott to delivering unique experiences that they actually have an executive with the title "VP buzz marketing." Her name is Jennifer Utz, and here's her money quote, courtesy of Skyft:

�It�s really about creating experiences that go above and beyond for our loyalty members, because we know our guests today are passionate about unique experiences. That�s what motivates them, but at an event like South by Southwest, it�s really hard to break though the clutter. This gives us a chance to deliver something one-of-a-kind.�

The Bullet Point: You may read a story like this and wonder: Absent Marriott's deep pockets, how can I deliver this level of experiential rewards to my customers? And is it really worth it to lavish so much attention on the relatively few customers who achieve elite status? Wouldn't I be better off spending that money to attract new customers?

Here's the answer: the Marriott/UMG promotion is smart because it achieves two core brand goals. One, it serves as a retention play for Marriott's top-tier customers, whose level of travel allows them the luxury of choosing to which hotel brand they'll devote their loyalty; and two, it provides a level of aspirational appeal to those high-potential customers currently dividing their loyalty between brands.

Not many people will actually enjoy the experience of partying with Ryan Adams at SXSW. But those who do will talk about it, tweet about it, and check in at the JW Marriott on Facebook. That's the definition of "buzzworthy." To emulate Marriott, you don't need Marriott money. Whether it's a wine tasting, an exclusive meet-and-greet, or a local event with special access for members, the key is to create experiences at the intersection of your brand promise and expressed member desires. The loyalty and buzz you create will more than justify your investment.

Read the Skyft article here.

- Rick Ferguson

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