Hospitality Brand marketing has entered an era of rapid response. Major corporate reputation crises that have beset large brands have made one thing clear: the playbook for how travel, hotel, airline, and other experiential brands communicate with their customers is in need of an update.
Siloed teams, disconnected data, different tools and technology, and a lack of collaboration between departments is not enough to build customer trust and loyalty in this new rapid-response ecosystem.
Here, data plays a new role in building customer trust and loyalty, and leveraging data about your brand from multiple sources in real time, and then using that data to respond to consumers and create engaging content — that’s no easy feat.
Many brands are addressing this challenge by building dedicated brand command centers. I’ve built five of them around the world for Marriott from the group up. Here’s how I define them:
A brand command center is where data and content come together to create “always on” marketing along the entire customer journey.
The Purpose of the Command Center
Marketing is no longer Monday to Friday, 9-5. People and consumers are always on: connected, creating, consuming, and curating content, so brands should be always on listening and engaging in real time, too. It’s the only way they’ll stay relevant and part of the conversation, and with social media, there’s an expectation of standard response time for brands.
An interesting psychological thing happens when you put something on social media about a brand: when the brand replies to you, you know that a) they’re there, and b) they care. It’s a huge thing for the brand to be present, and audiences feel a connection through that simple call and response. With a command center, that connection is enhanced as data and content come together in real-time through every interaction.
This allows the brand to make actionable decisions in real time for the audience they’re targeting, reinforcing that connection again. From the command center, there is a bird’s-eye view.
The Team Inside a Command Center
There are many different teams sitting inside the room: your digital team, data team, content producers, and even your corporate or crisis communications team. You’re also communicating with your media agency and other agency partners. One core person is the executive producer — this is ideally someone from a TV or news background, who is used to operating in a newsroom environment. They lead the room or “direct the show.” Content producers look at all the data coming in, and scout for interesting moments. Then there are writers and designers, the creative team who comes up with what the creative is for the brand’s response: a tweet, a GIF, an image. There is also a lot of different technology in the command center to storify your brand’s data, identify opportunities to engage, and filter through the streams of data.
Not all creative teams may sit in the command center, rather, they have a representative in there for the group. Look at it as centralizing the workflow and as educating people about what assets are being developed and published and what’s been approved or is waiting for approval. In a large organization or for a company that has multiple brands, the command center must see everything that’s going on and avoid workflow conflicts.
A command center needs the right system of checks and balances. For one, you have to ensure you’re not just monitoring social, but all media coverage about your brand.
More importantly, you have to make sure everyone is talking to each other — your content and data team, your social team, your media agencies, and so forth. If it’s set up right, the person running the room has insight into everything happening.
Employees will begin to understand that they complement each other and see the big picture of everything happening across the brand or portfolio of brands. Try to minimize the number of people involved; you’re not going to make everyone happy.
Older brands have a rigid customer care manual that originates from the days of call center training. When I worked at DirecTV, we had a script for when customers called. That conventional mentality of having scripted, automated responses has extended into customer care across other channels, including social media. For instance, a few years ago I was on a flight that had to make an emergency landing — after we landed, I took a photo of the landing scene with the fire trucks and emergency crew and posted it to Twitter. The airline’s response to me on social was “Glad you had a great trip!” Obviously, that’s not acceptable. With brand command centers and the “always on” approach to customer interaction, this wouldn’t happen.
The Brand Command Center is where data and content come together in real time. It brings together key people from multiple disciplines to view and respond to the same real-time information, in order to make actionable decisions.
Bringing the Power of a Brand Command Center to Hotels
After building five social media brand command centers around the world for Marriott International (called M-Live’s), we knew that individual hotels needed the same capability to unify all of their data into one platform, but the cost of a full-blown brand command center was prohibitive on a hotel marketers budget. So, we designed Hotel Social Key, which is built off the same technology, but custom built for exactly what hotel marketers need to see.