‘The space of digital has completely exploded’


New Delhi: As the hospitality sector witnesses a rebound, Marriott International, the American hospitality major that operates, franchises, and licenses hotels, is looking 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 crucial to the success of hospitality companies, and Marriott is responding by developing tailored high-impact campaigns. Edited excerpts:

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

Within the hospitality domain, marketing doesn’t necessarily fall into the mainstream. But we’ve recognized that without marketing, in such a visually intensive industry, we really can’t not be out there. So, some of the most visible campaigns have been like the ones around our wedding planning initiative in 2017-18, where we decided to revamp the way we were marketing weddings completely. Weddings were typically just a family get-together and a traditional way of organizing weddings, but we wanted to really rebrand it. We wanted to give it an identity, and at that point in time, Marriott was always perceived as an international organization; hence, we wanted to give a bit of a local flavour to everything that we were doing. 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 would be like a one-stop-shop, and we were offering it across all our properties.

Did you see any visible impact on sales?

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

Were there any other campaigns of note?

We moved gears into making sure that we would work with food and beverage as one of our important business pillars. And we came up with the entire 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 that food and beverage gained that kind of revenue and growth. We also did a Masters of Marriott, where we collaborated with chefs and did about eight instalments up till now where we work with the likes of Heston Blumenthal, Massimo Butera, we’ve worked with Marco Pierre White etc., all for the Indian market.

You also had a tryst with sports with the Mumbai Indians team in the Indian Premier League. What was that for?

Yes, we’re not just looking at the run-of-the-mill options but also looking at expanding and branching out our tentacles across different domains. We partnered with IPL and the Mumbai Indians over the last three years and saw a lot of enrollments for our member’s programme Marriott Bonvoy.

How does influencer marketing work in your domain?

I feel influencer marketing is important. But how much does it translate from a revenue perspective, as far as hospitality is concerned? I am a bit divided on my opinion, simply because we were selling a service, not a problem. I do feel influencer marketing may have lost its shine. Because there are so many influencers, they are not maintaining that niche anymore. They go for the highest bidders, individuals or for freebies like stay, lunch or dinner, and so I don’t necessarily see that kind of loyalty (being built up through them). When you are an influencer or an endorser, you need to work closely with one company, and you cannot solicit other brands. This is what I find missing in influencer marketing. Having said that, I won’t completely take their efficacy away.

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

We’re very big on performance marketing. A lot of our weight goes towards digital marketing. After the pandemic, it’s been pretty clear that the space of digital has completely exploded. Social media continues to be very important. We have a 360-degree approach to what we use in terms of our mix.

Assuming that digital gets the largest chunk of your marketing spending, then there is everything else. Are you also using newspapers?

It’s need-based; for example, in October, we wanted to launch St. Regis in Goa to build instant awareness, and a newspaper is something everybody 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’d rather go in for the high-impact proposition rather than do the small ones because today, you can get lost in the plethora of avenues.

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