A Hotel Giant Reshapes Its Employer Brand at (Almost) No Cost

Marriott made the unusual choice of not turning to an agency to create new employer branding. Why?

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Apr 13, 2023
This article is part of a series called ERE Recruiting Conference Spring 2023.

Marriott International does not have a huge talent team. What’s more, the employment brand team historically sat with internal communications and digital marketing.

And it worked. Talent was hired for open positions and a presence online was established on social media. 

When our new talent acquisition leader joined just over a year ago, he started realizing the implications of this and started asking questions: What is the candidate experience? How do we show the world our culture? What is it like to work at Marriott?

There were not a lot of answers — which made an important case to refresh the employer brand and use it to attract and retain talent. 

To create Marriott’s new employer brand, we started with our amazing associates by asking them why they do what they do. We conducted interviews (without using an outside vendor) around the world with associates in every region, brand, job family, and demographic. We compiled 200+ pages of findings, synthesized into 13 major themes, and eventually this turned into three brand pillars and an overarching theme. Throughout the process, we (the employment brand team) really began to understand what it was about our culture that made it unique enough to brand to the outside world.

One of the biggest things we realized right away was that the current branding had aspirational value (important for a travel company), yet additional reach was possible by exploring the specific jobs and the real people doing the work. By focusing our storytelling in this way, we added focus on purpose, people, community, and what associates could become personally and professionally (hence why we now call ourselves the People Brand team).

We also found that people were more similar than different around the world in terms of what they wanted in a career at Marriott. I remember a very specific meeting with the CHROs, TA leaders, and others from each of our regions where they literally were saying things like, “Well, I know that people want a job in our region because it allows them to grow.” And someone across the table and from around the globe would reply, “Wait, us too.” And through our interviews with associates, we were able to prove that out.

Although our process yielded a huge amount of valuable information, it was also, well, a huge process! Sometimes companies that are very large — Marriott has 350k+ associates in managed and owned properties and double that when including franchises — have such large research needs, execution on a plan can be difficult. With that in mind, MVP (minimal viable product) was the goal. We were determined to ship in a short period of time.

One way we were able to stay focused on pushing the work through was doing it ourselves. That is, we did not go to an agency. We did hire some help on the creative side to go to market with over 1,000 pieces of branded collateral in five different languages, but the rest of the work was done internally. This allowed us to move fast and keep focused on execution.

Lastly, it’s important to mention that so many times, we think that messaging and the EVP are just words, and that the real work happens only after you’ve established that. That’s probably why so many companies farm out that portion of the work to an agency. The reality is that if you take this on yourself, stay focused, and move forward quickly (it shouldn’t take six months to do this), you will learn a ton that can be applied to your content strategy and distribution moving forward.

I’ll be speaking more in-depth about how Marriott launched our global people brand at the upcoming ERE Recruiting Conference, May 22-24, in San Diego (and online). I hope you’ll join me for my session, “Modernizing Your Employer Brand: A No-Cost Strategy for Reshaping Your People Brand to Attract Today’s Talent.”

This article is part of a series called ERE Recruiting Conference Spring 2023.
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