Skift Take

Hyatt, like other travel brands, is going for a radical rethink of how hotels market and distribute their product. We'll watch closely to see how their plans shake out.

Editor’s Note: Following our previous CEO interview series in online travelhospitality, and destinations, Skift is launching a new series, this time focused on Chief Marketing Officers.


To better understand the big marketing challenges facing travel brands in an age when consumers are in control, Skift’s What Keeps CMOs Up at Night will talk with the leading voices in global marketing from across all the industry’s sectors.

These interviews with leaders of hotels, airlines, tourism boards, digital players, agents, tour operators and more will explore both shared and unique challenges they are facing, where they get insights, and how they best leverage digital insights to make smarter decisions.

This is the first interview in the series.

Hyatt Hotels launched its new Unbound Collection by Hyatt soft brand this morning (see separate Skift post) to reach a new consumer segment that wants an independent hotel with the benefits and rewards of a global chain.

Maryam Banikarim, Global CMO of Hyatt Hotels, says consumers across all travel sectors want that customizable journey where they can craft their own experience, while enjoying the security inherent in the Hyatt name.

Therefore, Hyatt’s marketing must promise that same sense of freedom, promise of self-actualization, and degree of spontaneity — hence the new “Unbound” brand identity.

Today, hospitality marketers have a vast and continually growing wealth of digital platforms to better understand and engage their customer base. But Banikarim says it’s important to develop integrated campaigns using a select number of strategic platforms, versus trying to leverage all of them.

She adds that new video and messaging platforms are going to dominate the hospitality marketer’s mind in 2016, because videos and SMS work so well on mobile.

Banikarim is an advocate for both Facebook Live and Facebook Messenger to capture the attention of the individual traveler, personalize the conversation, and track consumer data.

The recent campaign last year for Hyatt Regency leveraged video to get the message across that “It’s Good Not to Be Home.” Because of the nuances behind that campaign’s value proposition, video was used heavily to explain the idea of hotels as second homes, except where you can sleep in and eat dessert in peace and quiet when you want to.

Aside from buying print and television, Hyatt partnered with Fast Company and the Comedy Channel to develop new video content that aligned with each of their audiences and the Hyatt Regency customer. It also leveraged the serious social media firepower for each media platform.

We spoke with Banikarim to find out what challenges her as a hotel marketer in today’s complex marketplace, and how hospitality content marketing is evolving as an innovative brand differentiator.

Skift: What keeps you up at night as a hotel marketer today in 2016?

Maryam Banikarim: The challenges for all CMOs has always been about engaging consumers. The challenge today is that there are a lot more ways to engage people than there was before. I mean, your tool chest is just enormous, and I get pitched a new idea every day, if not hour. I think figuring out who’s really focusing on the consumer, and understanding their needs, is the most critical thing for us when it comes to working with our partners to develop new digital campaigns.

Today, marketing is a two-way relationship and we’ve always been an early adopter on social media like Facebook and Twitter. But now so many people are moving to Instagram and Snapchat and whatever else. So figuring out who your consumer is and where best to reach them — and how that’s evolving, because there are so many things that are constantly evolving — is the another very important thing.

Skift: What excites you about any of the new marketing vehicles on social media?

Banikarim: We work with a bunch of agencies on social media to help us do things like Facebook Live partnerships. One was with the Kahn Academy, which offers a huge array of educational programs, and we were able to partner with Facebook Live and do an event with them. We were also the first hospitality company to partner on a Facebook Messenger campaign.

So we’re always looking for new partnerships and ways of connecting with our guests, but it’s very difficult to take your money and spread it too thin and try to do something with everyone. While we’re always open to experimentation to try new things, you do have to pick a couple partners to go deep with. You learn more when you can really focus and get them to focus, and really build a real partnership where they’re also teaching you, because they obviously know their business best, and you know your business best.

Skift: How is the growth of online travel agents (OTAs) impacting your marketing strategy?

Banikarim: There are benefits for booking direct so we’re very interested in having a direct relationship with our customers, and we’re constantly looking for ways to engage them directly over other options. At the same time, we do want to partner with OTAs because in the end, you just want to be seamless for your customers. We’re very focused on being where our customers are, and we want to make it easy for people to partner with us just like everybody else.

But what we do know, once people join our loyalty program, they actually prefer to book direct because there are lots of benefits to that. Our customers get better rates, for one, but it’s really about the stories that we want to tell over and over again in detail across all of the channels.

Skift: What was a major marketing success for you in 2015?

Banikarim: We’re really proud of the “It’s Good Not to Be Home” campaign that we launched for Hyatt Regency, which hadn’t had its own campaign in the market for several years. What was interesting about that campaign in general was that it was based on consumer insight. People told us in our research that sometimes they feel guilty about traveling, because they have to leave their families behind or their job behind or whatever the case may be. But one of the benefits is that sometimes it is good to not be home.

So maybe a woman can spend time watching a romance or a comedy and not watching a football game. Or she can get to sleep in because her kids aren’t there to wake her up. Or you get to have dessert, or whatever that thing is for you. That’s the idea that drove the campaign for us.

It was a global campaign so we had to make sure we were talking to different markets in an appropriate way. It also allowed us to partner with Fast Company and Comedy Central to really bring that campaign to life. It was a very integrated marketing campaign that had a lot of digital, social, and TV components.

Skift: What was innovative about the two media partnerships?

Banikarim: We wanted to also focus on meeting planners because Hyatt Regency does a lot of group business. That was definitely another target for us, so we did a partnership with Fast Company based on the idea of an elevator pitch. Say you’re riding the elevator with somebody who asks you a question about what you do, which then leads to you getting funded. So we ran a Hyatt Elevator Pitch campaign where people could pitch their business ideas to someone in an elevator in one minute. That was successful because every business traveler or person attending a conference can relate to what it’s like to work on their own elevator pitch.

Humor is important, of course, and one way to show someone you care about them is to make them laugh. So we partnered with Comedy Central and worked with different comedians around the country, like Iliza Shlesinger, who won the “Last Comic Standing” contest one year.

One of my favorites was having individual comedians sitting on a bed in a hotel lobby, and they interacted with guests walking by and the associates. It was really fun and spontaneous with lots of opportunities for content, and it was able to come together nicely at the properties and on our social media channels, as well as more traditional media.

Skift: The Park Hyatt, Andaz, and Hyatt Place brands are very clearly defined, but there’s confusion about what separates Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt. Is that something you see as a challenge heading into 2016?

Banikarim: The team’s angle moving forward is figuring out a way to differentiate those brands so we don’t have this conversation the next time. We’re fortunate that we have lots of brands in our portfolio and some of them overlap in certain areas. I think there’s a lot of clarity with Park Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Place, and what those all deliver. We know that travelers are staying with different Hyatt brands when they travel on different trips for different purposes. That said, we’re very focused on trying to cultivate some of their identities and trying to differentiate them so it’s easier for you to figure out how to navigate our portfolio.

This series is presented by Boxever. The Skift content team maintains complete editorial control over these interviews and the selection of subjects.

For more insights from Boxever, please see the following reports:

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: boxever, cmo series, hyatt

Photo credit: Maryam Banikarim, CMO of Hyatt. Hyatt Hotels

Up Next

Loading next stories