Does your business have a “director of inspiration?” That’s the title Conrad Hotels bestowed on Nilou Motamed when they announced the hiring of the former editor and chief of Condé Nast’s Epicurious and compared her role to that of a “creative director” at a fashion house.

When Marriott created their content studio last year, they turned to David Beebe, who had formerly been at Disney ABC Television Group, and, more recently, they appointed Tony Chow, a seasoned production executive, to serve as director of creative and content marketing for Marriott in the Asia Pacific Region.

It’s part of the growing acknowledgement that marketing today revolves around the ability to engage customers and content is the fuel that drives today’s most-successful marketing initiatives.

In taking the post at Marriott, Chow reiterated his company’s goal to become the “Red Bull of hospitality” in terms of the volume and quality of content. Equally telling were his comments that pointed to ROI as being less about putting heads in beds and more about the engagement he can create with the brand. “I need to build audience over time. It won’t happen overnight. My ROI is not about the sales we make, or the return to the bottom line. It’s about the conversation around the content I make.”

This pressure to create meaningful and effective content is also forcing travel brands to take a fresh perspective that includes not only recruiting talent whose careers have been centered on developing entertainment and storytelling, but looking at the nature of the content itself. More than ever, the content that gets created needs to give a brand a distinct voice and point of view, and having a taste maker or content creation expert at the helm is one way to inject a personality, sense of style and importance into content to help make it more interesting, distinct and valuable.

As marketers take on the content challenge, we’re also seeing a movement toward a more-elevated discourse as travel brands begin to think of themselves as lifestyle leaders and conduits of knowledge. In the case of Conrad Hotels, they are focused on what they call “smart luxury” and inviting guests to “stay inspired” with a brand identity statement that clearly places an “emphasis on self-improvement and actualization by exploring local cultures and meeting local people to expand global perspectives.” Focusing on the areas of food/drink, art/design, culture, family, adventure and shopping, they are driving customers to www.stayinspired.com to find highly localized content and short itineraries that are being created with Motamed’s editorial eye.

Park Hyatt is another brand that is addressing this trend to elevate its content and engage customers in a more cerebral fashion. As Sandra Micek, senior VP of global brands at Hyatt, puts it, “The idea is that knowledge is currency. We wanted to offer unique insights and experiences only available at Park Hyatt.” With that insight, Park Hyatt created a partnership with The New York Times and formed a “TasteMasters” program that includes a Q&A series and live events featuring men and women excelling in their respective fields. The initial event was held in Manhattan and featured a New York Times reporter interviewing Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA’s campus in Queens, and celebrity chef Yottam Ottolenghi.

Among the TasteMasters Q&A series are Paris (“Art de Vivre”) featuring someone from the fashion world paired with the chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant at the Park Hyatt in Paris; New York (“Scents and Sensibilities”) pairing the founder of a fragrance house with the art consultant who chose the 350 pieces of art for the Park Hyatt in New York; and Vienna (“Classic Modernity”) pairing a museum director from the city and his wife, who is an art historian.

All of the content was created by a group within The New York Times and lives on their website, which adds to its credibility. It’s also accessible through the Park Hyatt website, although it’s strangely not present when you drill down to the individual property pages, where it would seem to be even more relevant.

Not surprisingly, this desire to connect travelers with thought leaders and local tastemakers isn’t reserved for upscale companies, and you only need look to the European based “poshtel” brand Generator for proof. At each of the Generator properties, they have appointed an event coordinator charged with bringing in music, art, fashion, design and things from the city that all contribute to a very vibrant, social and content-rich atmosphere. At these and other poshtels, it’s not unusual to find rooftop yoga classes, comedy nights, flamenco and salsa classes, walking tours of the city, poetry slams, and discussions with local artists and tastemakers all designed to engage guests, inspire interaction, deliver memorable moments and create shareable content.

Whether you bring in people from outside the industry, team up with your media partners, or actively generate your own programming like Generator has done, the one thing all these brands have in common is that they are taking a fresh perspective on how they engage customers and create content. Connecting with a customer’s passions, interests, curiosities and desire to get beyond the ordinary and expected are cornerstones for developing an approach to a thoughtful and illuminating dialogue that is captured in the content you create.

In this increasingly cluttered and competitive category, establishing a distinct and meaningful voice for your brand and your content is a marketing imperative.

Inspiration can be found all around.

*Previously seen on MediaPost

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