Hotels are in their own popularity contest of sorts, with brands looking for ways to position themselves as the most relevant to today’s consumer, be it through a brand refresh, launching lifestyle properties as part of their portfolios, or learning how to speak millennial.

Engaging in millennial dialogue means mastering a variety digital platforms, and becoming fluent in Snapchat has been a tough task for many brands. But Snapchat now offers a way for brands, especially hotels, to make their mark on the app by creating and sponsoring brand-affiliated filters, or stickers, frames and drawings that can be overlaid on images and video taken on the app.

W Hotels is the first hotel brand to capitalize on the opportunity by activating a geofilter campaign through December 31, says Alyssa Kiefer, global social marketing strategist, W Hotels.

“Snapchat is an emerging platform with the attention of an increasingly important millennial audience, so we jumped at the chance to be the first travel brand to participate in a national geofilter campaign,” Kiefer says.

“Our guests love to share the view from their room, the view from the pool, and what they’re eating and drinking on their social feeds. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to help our guests to humblebrag better than ever.”

CQkBfA5UYAA4bICAs part of its campaign, W Hotels presented Snapchat with tongue-in-cheek versions of traditional postcards, transforming “wish you were here,” for example, to “You Wish You Were Here,” and worked together with Snapchat’s creative team to develop the final filters.

The other two filters are “Current Situation” and “Auto Reply: 000,” which include W Hotel’s logo, and all three filters are available to all Snapchat users, whether they are staying at W property or just grabbing a drink, including at all W Hotels in the U.S. as well as W Montreal and W London.

eCommerce strategist Susan Black says she sees the filters as an excellent way for more hotel brands to build awareness using Snapchat. Aligning the brand with young, hip upscale brands such as Starbucks, one of a handful of companies that has also created their own filters, is “a win,” Black says.

“Snapchat filters provide a great opportunity to engage a group where brand and image are key,” Black says. “The advertising spend will have a much further reach — similar to those hospitality brands which launched Facebook pages in the early days of Facebook.”

With more than 100 million users globally using Snapchat, the app’s evolution is opening frontiers for brands to explore creative avenues for content distribution.

“Many of these shared moments center around destinations and events that are important to our brand,” Kiefer says. “Snapchat is growing quickly and adding new features all the time. Our social media platforms allow us to be accessible to our guests whenever they want and via the medium they prefer, so having a strong presence on Snapchat is important to us.”

Marriott was the first hotel brand to experiment with Snapchat through a joint deal with Naritiv in October 2014, and the medium has come a long way in providing a channel for hotel brands to present their voice and message in a way that speaks to today’s consumer while staying true to the brand.

“We have a couple of ideas for future geofilters and are also looking at Snapchat’s other sponsored opportunities,” Kiefer says. “For example, a live story takeover would allow us the opportunity to insert W within a key holiday or event, like a music festival or fashion week, putting our brand messaging in front of a captive and relevant audience.”

Kiefer adds that W Hotels will keep its eye on Snapchat as the app continues to update its features, providing versatile ways for brands to further optimize their brand’s presence in the digital realm.

Black doesn’t recommend a live story takeover strategy, seeing these 10-second video spots within a live story as a “less effective” method of branding.

“These seem more like video pre-rolls or ads, and users will most likely find ways to eliminate them.” Black says. “It will be interesting to see how W Hotels measures its brand lift or brand engagement by advertising on Snapchat.”

Photo Credit: Three sample filters for W Hotels' new initiative for the app. Starwood Hotels and Resorts