The social campaign is an example of a brand marketing to the LGBT community with more than just imagery of same-sex couples and reflects a broader shift in LGBT marketing.
Marriott International's #LoveTravels is a new campaign that the hotel brand says conveys its commitment to "make everyone feel comfortable being who they are, everywhere they travel."
Featuring notable figures in the LGBT community, the promotion is also noteworthy in that it marks an evolution in LGBT marketing as brands look for ways to show they are LGBT-friendly in increasingly creative ways, experts say.
The effort from Marriott launched June 2 and will run through November 30.
Marriott partnered with photographer Braden Summers to create images for the campaign, which includes photos of professional basketball player Jason Collins, model and social advocate Geena Rocero, and Marriott associate Talisha Padgett-Matthews.
Numerous Marriott properties in New York and Miami were used in the photographs, according to a press release.
"Summers' unique ability to capture warmth and emotion perfectly communicates the company's welcoming approach to hospitality," the brand says.
In addition to photo and video content, #LoveTravels will include building wraps at five hotels in Washington, D.C., a series of print ads in LGBT media, and display ads in cities throughout the U.S.
Elements of #LoveTravels will also be featured on the Marriott LGBT website and at Pride events in Washington, San Francisco, and New York.
"The idea is really just to reflect what's happening today and really just make sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome when they walk through our doors," says Kristine Friend, senior director of segment marketing at Marriott.
While LGBT travelers are a target, the campaign's audience is really broader because "everyone can relate to the theme of feeling comfortable," Friend says.
In addition, the brand has "a pretty big buy with a mobile ad network" in order to reach Millennials and Millennial travelers, she says.
Marriott is also encouraging travelers to share their stories with the hashtag #LoveTravels.
According to David Paisley, senior research director with Community Marketing and Insights, an LGBT market intelligence, strategies, and training firm, LGBT marketing has been a niche market for at least 15 years, but there has been a shift in brand outreach, even specifically within the hotel space, in recent years.
According to CMI research, in 2009 and 2010, LGBT survey respondents said W and Kimpton Hotels did the best job of reaching out to them.
"Big players like Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott really started going out more around 2010 and 2011 because I think they realized the boutique brands were really beating them," Paisley says. "Right now...it's really a battle between Hilton and Marriott and both are spending a lot of money in the LGBT community."
Paisley says this reflects a broader shift in LGBT advertising.
"It used to be that you could just do an ad with a same-sex couple in a gay magazine, but everyone has that outreach strategy, so brands can't really get [themselves] noticed by simply doing a basic ad in [the LGBT community]," Paisley says. "In a marketing world where every brand out there has imagery of same-sex couples, they all begin to look the same to the consumer...the consumer is bombarded with imagery and ads that look the same, so the big challenge is how do you show in imagery that you're gay-friendly...but not use the standard [campaign elements]?"
Paisley cites a 2012 Facebook campaign from Oreo in which the brand posted an image of a cookie with rainbow creme as "a great example of how to get away from same-sex couple imagery" and that was a super-simple concept that got noticed. The image was liked 295,000 times and shared 90,000 times on Facebook.
Another example is a 2013 ad from Kindle for its Paperwhite product that features a straight and gay couple, which generated 873,000 views on YouTube and was "the talk of the gay community," Paisley says.
"Digital marketers have to get away from the concept of the same-sex couple and be creative and fun," he says.
Marriott's #LoveTravels campaign is one example of an effort that "cuts through the clutter," he says.
In addition, the social and press exposure this campaign has generated early on is a sign that "at least in the early stages, it's working," he adds.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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