How Marriott’s social team solved its brand guideline challenges

About Marriott

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Marriott International is one of the most acclaimed hotel brands in the world. Based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, Marriott owns and manages a portfolio of more than 7,500 properties with 30 leading hotel brands across 132 countries and territories — making it a truly global enterprise.

Starting from humble beginnings, its heritage can be traced to a single root beer stand opened in Washington, D.C., in 1927 by J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott.

Marriott made a historic shift into the hotel business in 1957 with the first motor hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Over the next 25 years, Marriott became a diverse global enterprise and a staple in the hospitality industry.

Marriott International’s brands include Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, J.W. Marriott, W Hotels, Le Meridien, St. Regis, Aloft Hotels, AC Hotels by Marriott, and many more.

The challenge

If there’s any industry that serves as the driving factor in our social media wanderlust, there’s no doubt it’s the hospitality industry. Perfectly curated images, announcements and marketing are essential to ensuring that hotels are able to attract guests to stay. And the Marriott social media team understands this role well. 

Marriott International’s Caribbean and Latin American (CALA) social media team supports around 98 properties in the region. This amounts to trying to control the visual guidelines for 30 brands.

For the past four years, this small but powerful team, has crafted and distributed content that is used on the property’s social media channels

Before the CALA social media team was formed, properties were doing their own social media but they would often run into trouble when it came to adhering to brand guidelines, including brand colors, logos, fonts and photos.

When the social media team was formed, part of its mission was to centralize brand guidelines and define strategy for each hotel & brand.

Over the past four years, the number of social media platforms has grown, and the need for content has exploded. The challenge to create localised content at the volume required became increasingly difficult. Every single hotel needed to tell its unique story about events, special team members, food and beverage specialties, special local celebrations, as well as refurbishments, openings and seasonal deals and offers. 

Marriott’s Executive Chairman J.W. ‘Bill’ Marriott Jr. is famously quoted as saying, “It’s the little things that make the big things possible. Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.”

In 2020, as many Marriott employees were furloughed because of the global pandemic, only two people in the Social Media team were active to support all of the region. Marriot faced a difficult situation: “How can we provide assets for hotels that are on brand but are simple to adapt to hotel demands?”

Marriott CALA Social Media Manager Maia Maranghello says, “Our teams at the properties were using all kinds of free apps from their phones to create social posts, as well as an app called Mojo. We had some templates for Mojo but not that many. We thought, ‘Maybe we should start creating templates’?”

“We were using Photoshop to create these templates but some of them didn’t have access or the necessary skills to use it. So we ended up creating a centralized library of social media assets in PowerPoint for our team”.

 “We spent a heap of time on this but during 2020, without the support of all the Social Media Team, when we would send the files to the hotels, they wouldn’t be able to use them” says Maia.

“At least everyone could access the files, but the problem is that with PowerPoint, we were really limited in what we could design and there was still no way to control the brand, lock elements or colors. A lot of the properties had high security measures so they couldn’t download the correct fonts anyway, and the file would break.” says Maia.

Across the 30 brands the team was overseeing, each brand had at least two fonts each. That’s 60 fonts to say on top of, so it was hard to enforce guidelines and be consistent on PowerPoint.

Maia says that posts were going out with the wrong brand guidelines applied. 

“The Sheraton property would have Marriott font and colours on a Sheraton post. We knew we needed to do something – and quickly.”

The solution

The team was first introduced to Canva for Enterprise through their partners. When the social media team said they were using Photoshop to create posts and that it was taking a lot of time, the partners came back and said, “You can do that in Canva in less than five minutes.” 

The Marriott team contacted the Canva sales team and set up a meeting. 

Marriott Senior Manager, Social Media Operations CALA, Victor Arce, says, ”Canva did a great presentation — especially for Brand Kits — it was easy to understand the benefits, and see how we could save time and maintain brand consistency.”

Here’s how they did it

Maia says it only took one day to create the first set of assets they needed on Canva. 

“I thought, ‘OK this tool is fast.’ We could send these templates out to hotels and they only needed to change text and photos. 

“It completely changed my view of Photoshop. I had always loved it but it’s not helpful when you’re the only one who can use it,” says Maia. 

As part of the rollout, the social media team asked the property teams to use the Social Media Canva templates. And once everyone from the CALA Social Media team came back and the Marriott templates were ready, it was easier to support the hotels in the region because they already had all the templates per brand ready to use for their social media strategy. 

Maia says, “Training took just one hour for users that had no design experience at all. The Canva team also created videos to help new employees which made it so easy. Canva was easy to learn and easy to use.” 

Another huge time saving win for the social team was that they were able to share their existing PowerPoint library with the Canva Studio team and they converted the designs into Canva templates. 

The Marriott social media team was also able to share templates with some elements — specifically logos, fonts and colors — delivered in a ‘locked’ format so the end users could only change the text and photos. This ensured that everything stayed on brand but could still be localised. Social Media Coordinator at Peru Cluster, Clivia Rey De Castro has loved how Canva has helped her scale.  “Great experience! It helped me a lot to quickly create the assets I needed. I’m looking for mote templates so I can do more promotions”.

Social Media coordinator and Creative Social Team leader, Felix Garcia Duval says, “In the past we would send files to properties and they would change whatever they want so you lose the integrity of the design.”

The sales team has also benefited from Canva. Ingrid Alfonso, Sales Manager at Aloft San Jose says:  “When we received the Recovery Toolkit, it was a great help to work with Canva, I was not used to making the promotional pieces since it was the job of the marketing office. Once I started using it, it was a very fast way to solve the need to develop pieces that are used in all the communication channels.”

Each brand now has its own Brand Kit with colors, logos and fonts, and the team is able to access the Canva Library of lifestyle photos and videos for when they aren’t able to take or make their own at the properties. With the CALA Social teams working remotely, this solved a very real problem when it came to supplying appropriate imagery.

Summary

Right now the social media team is starting to grow, but they are still supporting more and more new hotels. 

In the context of the pandemic, now they have less time than ever before and more requests to promote offers and promotions on social media. With Canva they can create a post in less than five minutes. This reduction in time spent designing has massive benefits. 

The major features that have benefited them are the fonts – all easily accessible and no security issues with trying to download them; the ability to create multiple brand kits with branded templates, the ‘Style’ button and access to the 1M+ library of video and photo assets for lifestyle. 

The team is especially excited about all the new features Canva continues to launch to help make their lives easier. 

Maia says, “Canva is easy and fast, super helpful, and it’s become really easy to maintain brand consistency.”

Canva is easy and fast,super helpful, and it’s become really easy to maintain brand consistency