CHICAGO: Marriott International, the hotels group, is using buzz marketing to help "reinvent" the way it connects with millennial consumers.

Jennifer Utz, Marriott International's Vice President/Buzz Marketing and Partnerships, discussed this subject at IEG's 2016 Sponsorship Conference.

"We are reinventing the way that we market to millennials," she reported. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Marriott finds ten tips for buzz marketing.)

Drilling down into this topic, she suggested that the Bethesda, Maryland-based firm wants to create buzz marketing activations that prompt consumers to spread the word and, indeed, the company's content.

"We come up with these marketing stunts and experiential campaigns that leverage the power of our partners to help reach that millennial audience that's so highly coveted," said Utz.

"Our goal, specifically, is to come up with the campaigns that get people talking about our brands, our properties, our portfolio and our loyalty program in a meaningful way."

An illustration came with Super Bowl 50, where an initiative for Courtyard by Marriott – the "Official Hotel of the NFL" – sought to turn this major sporting event into a truly viral occasion for the brand.

"We were trying to figure out what exactly we could do and what couldn't we do," said Utz. "Honing in on that 50, we wanted to do something unbelievably special."

The result was a "50-to-50" contest giving a lucky Facebook user the chance to spend the night in a suite above the contest field where the NFL showpiece would take place, and invite 50 people to the big game.

"It was an unbelievable experiment to see how viral that app would go. So I would tag my 50 friends. They would have the chance to tag their 50 friends, and so on and so forth," said Utz.

"By the end of our campaign, we literally had hundreds of thousands of people who were tagged just to get the opportunity to go to Super Bowl 50."

Utz's department, which was formed less than a year ago, has also worked with partners like Uber, Netflix, Universal Music Group, the NBA and the NFL – all with the aim of deepening bonds and driving buzz.

"We're trying to move from creating just general relationships with our customers to loyal, raving brand fans for life. The way we do that is by creating these memorable experiences," she said.

Data sourced from Warc