When firing up your laptop to watch branded content have you ever thought, “Man, I wish I could watch this short video on the big screen. I’d pay good money to see this in the theater!”?
Probably not, which is why Marriott’s narrowly distributed lifestyle series Storybooked should be a cautionary tale to other content creators. (It won’t be, but we tried.)
Marriott disrupted the branded content model by screening the entirety of Storybooked in theaters. Yep, you could’ve dropped around $20 to watch an extended branding experience in theaters and if you missed it, it airs on A&E. It also lives on their branded lifestyle blog Marriott Traveler and of course, YouTube.
Created by Marriott Content Studios, Storybooked is a series of short films aiming to “share with consumers around the world the benefits of loyalty to Marriott through the experiences and stories of real members.”
The members featured are international artists and musicians on personal journeys. Each episode is almost formulaic in nature – the artist offers a profound statement about their work or journey, then comes footage of a train, followed by footage of the artist touching buildings, sitting in doorways and enjoying local culture. Sometimes they return to the Marriott, sometimes they don’t.
I watched many of these (from the comfort of my couch) and I’m in no hurry to book Marriott any time soon. I get it, companies are trying to attract a younger and hipper demographic and they think branded content is the way to earn loyalty, but these are lukewarm advertorials at best. They lack the sincerity of originality and authenticity that appeals to a younger demographic. I didn’t even feel compelled to look up these artists’ work to explore more. I didn’t feel compelled to do anything.
If anyone, they might appeal to already loyal Marriott fans, but I’m having a hard time imagining even the most rabid fan forking over the price of theater admission to watch these.
There are brands have been able to successfully dip their toes into more narrative-based ads. Both Kate Spade and H&M have previously created episodic series and short films to promote their lines and they’ve worked largely because even though they’re ads, their creativity and whimsy prevail. I wouldn’t rush to see them in the theaters, but I’d happily surrender a few minutes of screen time to watch.
Will this trend continue? Will other brands seek the same kind of distribution model for branded content? Think of it this way, when’s the last time you found yourself in a crowded movie theater?