Checking In With Marriott’s Mara Hannula

Last week, Marriott Hotels announced it was launching a new advertising campaign, “Let Your Mind Travel.” LODGING connected with Mara Hannula, Marriott International’s VP of Global Brand Marketing, about the campaign and how the hotel advertising game has changed over the past few years.

What was the inspiration behind this campaign?

We know that our target Marriott Hotels customers are focused on creative thinking. They are motivated and ambitious and want to succeed and leave their mark on the world. We conducted extensive global research and heard that when our guests’ needs are met, they feel relaxed and anxiety-free and have the mind space to be inspired. Our new “Let Your Mind Travel” global campaign is designed to celebrate our 550+ hotels and our brand vision of cultivating an environment where customers can learn, think, create, and imagine and achieve their best frame of mind to be and feel inspired.


Why was now the right time to launch it?

We’re at a pivotal point in the brand’s worldwide 6-year property transformation. At the beginning of this journey we unveiled a campaign that spoke to our “Inspiring Brilliance” brand positioning to signal change and to lay the foundation of our product transformation. By the end of 2019, 60 percent of our hotels in North America will be transformed. This new campaign designates the beginning of our next brand chapter and establishes Marriott Hotels as the best place for our guests to rest, relax, and recharge their minds.

What has the response been so far?

The early response has been extremely positive. We took this ad into consumer research with 200 target customers and were thrilled to hear that customers played back the exact messages we intended them to take away. Our customers told us that the ad showed Marriott Hotels as providing a “relaxing mental and physical escape for travelers” and that at Marriott you will be “so comfortable that your mind will be free to soar.” Our research indicates that when Marriott Hotels’ image and reputation is healthy, the entire Marriott International portfolio is positively impacted. Of the 200 research respondents that saw our new ad, 85 percent had a more positive perception of Marriott Hotels, and even more exciting is that 75 percent had a more positive perception of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Our previous campaign using the “Inspiring Brilliance” positioning improved brand metrics and drove a positive perception of the MI portfolio and we believe this campaign will do the same.

How has advertising in the hotel space changed over the last few years?

The hotel category has always been a cluttered space for the average consumer with many different players. Over the course of the last few years we’ve seen the hotel advertising category be increasingly dominated by second party booking sites like and and new entrants into the hotel sector like Equinox and Taco Bell. Disruptors like AirBnb have benefitted from trending home decorating shows like Netflix’s “Stay Here” and “Instant Hotel” – expanding the “advertising” category beyond traditional channels. This means Marriott Hotels needs to be a disruptor in the category and leverage every opportunity to reach out to the target to educate them on all that Marriott Hotels can offer. This campaign is designed to capture people’s attention and tell our brand story. However, it is only one part of part of a broader marketing ecosystem, including social, digital, and other messaging, to educate guests about the amenities and programs we have on-property and experiences we have off-property, that will reinforce this story.

What do you like most about the campaign?

I like that we used a conceptual approach that is a bit bolder and more unexpected. Our customers are a discerning audience with an appetite for conceptual provocation. Our most recent TED campaign strongly resonated so we wanted to continue in that direction and appeal to guests’ intellectual side with a video that doesn’t feel like a traditional ad. I also love the “Pure Imagination” lyrics that connect so well with our message, and when sung with a modern twist, work hard to deliver our brand vision.