Blazing new paths of innovation by mobilizing a diverse band of co-creators has developed into somewhat of a superpower.
A few years out of the gate, the company’s Travel Brilliantly campaign is still spinning user-generated ideas for improving upon the millennial hotel experience into gold. Likewise, the success of the world’s first live-beta hotel, the Charlotte Marriott City Center, is a direct result of real-time guest feedback submitted through on-site beta buttons. M Beta, as the project is called, inspired the first pop-up hotel innovation labs in L.A.’s downtown Aloft and Element hotels this year. These are the kinds of innovations that we’ve come to expect from Marriott. A lessor known facet of its hotelier personality is a pioneering stance on diversity both in its workforce and hotels. This brings us to one Marriott’s latest user-generated innovations: crowdsourcing kindness.
Forget Four Walls
Marriott’s focus on “purpose priorities” is rooted in the idea that the hotel experience does not begin or end at the hotel; where you’re staying isn’t always where you’re going. This sense of responsibility has taken shape in the hotel company’s global, year-round #LoveTravels campaign for equality. During Pride Month this past June, #LoveTravels cast a spotlight on homeless LGBT youth—who account for nearly four in 10 homeless youths in the US—by calling for in-person and online expressions of unconditional acceptance and love in the form of paintings, doodles, photographs and handwritten notes that were added to an ongoing mosaic.
The #LoveTravels art installation rose in Washington, DC’s Freedom Plaza ahead of Capital Pride, and local personalities and celebrities such as “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” actor Tituss Burgess dropped by to contribute and create some noise for the cause. Marriott donated to the True Colors Fund and Casa Ruby, two organizations that help homeless LGBT youth, for every original submission created on-site or tagged #LoveTravels and #MyPride on Twitter and Instagram. Seven Marriott properties—North Carolina to Sao Paulo—also held “expression sessions” for guests, which will be added to the mosaic at a later date.
The #LoveTravels mosaic debuted last year with contributions from “Orange is the New Black” actor Laverne Cox and other celebrities and thousands of LGBT supporters from over 90 countries. The campaign included a partnership with the recently opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture and an “EncouragHERS” luncheon celebrated the contributions of women in the African American community. #LoveTravels has raised donations for recent immigrants in the past and future African American and Latino projects are in the works.
Diverse partnerships facilitate an exchange of ideas that lead to innovation. More than 800 of Marriott’s 6,100 worldwide properties are owned by women and minorities. The goal is to have 1,500 hotels owned by women and diverse partners—women, minorities, LGBT, veterans, etc.—by 2020.
Multi-cultural awareness is also a touchpoint of Marriott’s employee training. The company hosts annual educational “Culture Days” for associates around the world that plunge them into a particular culture in effort to foster cultural sensitivity and awareness that translates naturally into business exchanges. These retreats have lasted as long as seven days and often include a field trip into an ethnic district in a city. Recent cultural training has touched on the importance of family, food and relationship building in India; business hierarchy, status and patience in China; kosher food and its impact on catering for Jewish guests, and understanding Ramadan, Islam and halal foods in the Middle East. While Marriott’s next diversity initiative is yet to be determined, will one thing is clear: crowdsourcing kindness is good business.