The latest Hollywood entry? Marriott hotels

Actors Sophina Brown and Henry Simmons in a scene from "Two Bellmen."

Evan J. Cholfin

This week, the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live hotel is playing host to a film set featuring stuntmen from TV shows and movies such as "Grimm" and "Spider-Man." But the sleek downtown hotel isn't the backdrop for a major Hollywood studio film. Instead, it's playing a starring role in the first short film from one of the entertainment industry's newest entrants: Marriott International (MAR).

It may seem odd for a hotel chain to get involved in media content; after all, most guests are likely more concerned about linens and location. But Marriott global marketing officer Karin Timpone says that the creation of the company's content studio is connecting its 18 brands, such as Courtyard and Renaissance, to younger travelers.

"When we looked at how we are connecting to the next generation of travelers, really telling a story -- in addition to the actual functions and features of a hotel -- is an important way to reach them," Timpone said. "'Two Bellmen' is a live-action shoot with these incredible dance artists. It's telling a story with the hotel as a character."

Although Marriott might be the sole hotel chain with its own media unit, the concept of using content marketing to reach a consumer segment isn't new. Take a look at Austrian beverage maker Red Bull.

Red Bull transformed an energy drink into a lifestyle statement, thanks to Red Bull TV, which shows video of extreme sports such as "speed riding" (a combination of freestyle skiing and paragliding) and ice climbing. That's helped the energy drink company become a favorite of buzz-seeking millennials.

While "Two Bellmen" is Marriott's first short film, the hotel chain is already making inroads on YouTube. The company's Courtyard chain, which has an affiliation with the NFL, has a "Candid Camera"-style clip with Chicago Bears player Charles Tillman that features him posing as a TV commercial director and asking hotel guests to sing "Jingle Bells" while wearing reindeer antlers and elf hats.

The overall effect is good-natured and charming, and provides an essential key for content marketing: providing consumers with a positive story that allows them to engage with a brand.

"A brand has to use every platform available to get across what you are trying to convey," Timpone said. "This is the ultimate use of what has now been made available with the changing and fragmentation of media."

Marriott is turning to a Snapchat-focused marketing and analytics agency Naritiv to become the first major hotel on Snapchat, and is working with YouTube stars and bloggers such as British filmmaker Louis Cole to create content. (Ironically, Marriott is coming in for some criticism this week as it and other hotel groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to block guests' ability to create their own Wi-Fi hotspots.)

While Timpone didn't disclose the exact budget for the Marriott Content Studios, she described the cost as "modest." She added, "Obviously, production does require some investment."

She noted, "What we are trying to do is make sure our offerings are top of mind as people communicate today. That network effect has an impact on consumer consideration and decisions. It's absolutely correct that the experience on the property is also very important, but it works together" with engaging consumers through content and social media.