Marriott Uses Experiential Rooms as Educational Opportunities


What do you think of when you hear “a Marriott hotel?”

Is it a Marriott? Or maybe Marriott Courtyard? A Residence Inn? W Hotels? Aloft? The Ritz-Carlton? Sheraton? Gaylord Hotels? Or…?

In total there are 30 brands under the Marriott umbrella, and if you don’t know what makes a room at the Moxy different from a stay at a Four Points, you’re not alone. With so many brands it can even be confusing for internal staff to differentiate the unique selling points and personality of each one.

That’s why, for its 2018 biannual Marriott International Americas Leadership Summit, also known as MI30, the company did something unique to help its sales and marketing associates distinguish between the various brands: it let them experience them. No, Marriott did not send more than 1,400 employees to stay at each of the various locations. Instead, it found a way to bring the experience of these locations to the meeting.

Marriott converted the atrium, as well as several conference rooms and restaurants, at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta into a series of immersive experiences.

“The traditional route would be to go and give [employees] toolkits and assets and load them up with information, but when you have such an overload of information at a three-day conference, it’s hard to really walk away and connect with what you’ve been told,” says Diana Pavlov, Senior Director-Global Entertainment Marketing at Marriott International.

“Consumers who get the opportunity to frequent pop-up experiences walk away with an everlasting impression of that experience, whether it’s something that lives on social media or touches their senses. You can have a traditional trade show floor and presentation, but we wanted people to touch, feel, see, and learn about the brands in a completely unexpected way.”


Photo Credit: Event Marketer

It’s an idea that mirrors Refinery29’s 29Rooms, a traveling activation where visitors move from room to room experiencing installations from various artists. The original was during the 2015 New York Fashion Week, where an 80,000 square-foot warehouse was sectioned off into 29 separate areas. Celebrities and brands sponsored many, but not all, of the rooms. For example, the Michael Kors branded room was designed to look like a West Village street. Visitors could pose on a sidewalk “runway” with Michael Kors products – and then share those pics on social media. Over the years, iterations of 29 Rooms have appeared in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and (again) New York.


Photo Credit: Clio

What the Marriott Vignettes were able to do is take the creativity and wonder created by 29Rooms and transform it into an educational experience. It’s a brilliant idea – and one that taps into people’s different learning styles. Some learn by reading, some by listening, and some by doing. The Marriott Vignettes accomplished all three – and attendees were able to download a MI30 mobile app, which they could use to scan a QR code to get more tangible material about each brand.

“The landing page was where you could get more factual information,” said Pavlov. “The intent was to make the information snack-able, without pouring a ton of data on attendees. They could read one paragraph and walk away knowing more about that brand.”

Marriott worked closely with each hotel brand leader to determine what made their property special and unique. A few examples include:

Courtyard by Marriott

This area encouraged attendees to relax and play a game of Twister. On the floor were several colored dots that continued all the way up the walls. Each dot was augmented with a representation of the Courtyard experience: food, drinks, even sports (Courtyard offers travel packages for sports fans). Attendees who participated in Courtyard’s “Classics with a Twist” were given a photo as a reminder.


Photo Credit: Event Marketer


Essentially one giant scratch-off, Sheraton was represented by a giant black wall with lettering in glossy black that spelled out negative associations for the brand, such as “tired” and “old.” Taking a hotel keycard, attendees could scratch away the negativity to reveal the transformation the brand has undergone, which included such terms as “modern” and “community.”


Photo Credit: Event Marketer

W Hotels

The tagline for the W Hotels is “boldly coloring outside the lines of luxury.” To bring this concept to life, a white room was decorated with white frames featuring white art and the word “LUXURY” in bright, white letters. The only color came from a table in the center of the room containing various paints (the colors represented aspects of the W brand, such as “provocative design”) and brushes. Attendees were encouraged to paint whatever they wanted on the walls, to literally color outside the lines of luxury.

Aloft Hotels

The highlight of the Aloft activation was the “Listen Up” section. Four sound boxes were suspended from a pole and attendees could stick their heads in to learn about the Project Aloft Star Competition, a program that supports emerging musicians. They could also listen to some performances from the “Live at Aloft Hotels” concert series. In addition, the activation featured a DIY beer bar.


Photo Credit: Event Marketer

SpringHill Suites

At first glance, the SpringHill Suites activation looked a little basic. It was a large black cube featuring “constellations” that spelled out some of the brand’s amenities. However, once an attendee opened the door to the cube, they witnessed a 360-degree fiber optic installation that was like peering into an endless night sky. The experience was intended to represent the brand’s promise of providing more space for its guests.

Moxy Hotels

This brand caters to a fun-seeking crowd. To represent this, a large ball pit containing hot pink plastic balls was suspended from a series of trusses. Attendees were encouraged to dive into the pit and search for “hook-ups,” which were prizes and hotel perks. There was also a front desk that served ready-to-enjoy cocktails held in Capri Sun-esque pouches.

Element Hotels

Element is a brand focused on eco-conscious. To highlight this concentration, the activation featured a wall of green moss and other greenery that showcased the tagline “stay in your element even during longer stays.” It also included a photo op where attendees could climb on bikes and appear to be riding down a wood-lined trail.


Photo Credit: Event Marketer

Le Meridien

The highlight of the “Swings of Glamour” activation was three, vine-covered swings, where attendees could pass some time reliving a childhood memory. The intention of the display was to encourage attendees to savor their experiences while traveling.


Photo Credit: Event Marketer

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts

St. Regis has a history that dates back to 1904 in New York. To celebrate this past, a room with dark wood and an art deco décor showcased a golden, illuminated tree suspended over a long table printed with historical milestones for the brand.

Marriott intends to continue utilizing these activations at sales conferences across the country. These will feature smaller-scale MI30 events and include six to eight brands.

“The vignettes were small footprints, but we wanted to lean in on what is in that brand’s DNA,” said Pavlov. “By putting the brands at the forefront as our strategy, we hoped employees would become emotionally connected with the brands, and in turn sell them to their full potential going forward.”

How could your brand utilize experiential rooms as educational (or entertaining) opportunities? For some help conceptualizing ideas and creating activations, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.