A sign proclaiming the famous Willy Wonka quote, ‘Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple’ hangs near the entrance of The Underground, Marriott Hotels’ underground innovation lab; a lofty space at the epicenter of Marriott International headquarters located in Bethesda, Maryland. A pioneer space in helping to re-invent the future of travel, Marriott’s innovation lab serves as a think tank of creativity. Our first visit to the space is alive with energy as Marriott Hotels is set to announce the winner of their Travel Brilliantly co-creation contest.
Marriott Hotels, a household name in hospitality, recently launched their Travel Brilliantly campaign; a bold commitment to inspiring influencers and consumers to help re-imagine the future of travel with Marriott. Consumers were encouraged to submit their travel inspired ideas to Marriott’s online platform, TravelBrilliantly.com, in six different passion points of travel; Eat & Drink, Work & Play, Health & Wellness, Style & Design, Technology and Outside the Box. Five First Prize Winners were chosen over the course of three rounds, resulting in fifteen top prize winners who went onto a final stage of the process. Each entry was chosen based on a criterion of innovation; feasibility, strategy for execution and overall impression. “[Travel Brilliantly] had to be bold in not only staking our claim, but also engaging the next generation of travelers to join us in co-creating the future of travel,” stated Mara Hannula, Vice President of Global Marketing for Marriott Hotels. Encapsulated by its slogan, ‘It’s not only about where you’re staying, it’s about where you’re going,’ Marriott Hotels has committed to equipping their guests with the tools they need to travel brilliantly both within and beyond the four walls of the hotel.
On September 30th, TravelBrilliantly.com Judges, Shira Lazar, host and co-founder, “What’s Trending;” Marc Kushner, founder/CEO of Architizer.com; and Matthew Von Ertfelda, Vice President, Creative Strategy of Marriott Hotels convened at The Underground, judged the fifteen First Prize Winner submissions and chose the Grand Prize Winner submission. The First Prize Winners of each round captured the spirit of each category, culling from a range of diverse backgrounds. Personalizing the stay experience, Richard R. suggested that Marriott Hotels guests submit photos and artwork to adorn their rooms and communal areas, connected to the guest by their name and Marriott Rewards number. Richie W. merged work and play with his idea for a monthly happy hour event for business travelers surrounding a topical theme. Engendering a sense of a home away from home, Suzanne P. came up with the concept for an app that would enable guests to pre-order groceries that would be stocked in their room upon arrival.
After the judging process was complete, Marriott hosted a Gallery Tour of Innovation, a reception that celebrated Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly co-creation program. Marriott brought in local innovative DC based vendors, Nicecream Factory and sweetgreen to serve up refreshments at the event. Nicecream dished up exotic concoctions of nitrogen-frozen ice cream while sweetgreen poured their “sweetpress” juice from their cold pressed juice line. From the décor to the food, the spirit of innovation was felt everywhere.
As host of the Emmy-nominated show, ‘What’s Trending’, Shira Lazar connected with the dynamic message of the Travel Brilliantly campaign, stating that working with Marriott was an ‘easy fit’. Lazar explains, “We love to partner with any brand that wants to use digital tools in innovative ways and connect with the next generation of consumers.” Covering the latest in digital culture for such news epicenters as CBS, Lazar has been heralded as one of ‘The Most Influential Women in Technology’ by Fast Company and featured in the Huffington Post’s ‘Women in Tech’ series.
Teaming up with Marriott Hotels was also a melding of minds for Marc Kushner, a partner for design firm, HWKN, and CEO of Architizer.com, the first ‘crowd-sourced database for architects’, a social platform that features over 50,000 projects from around the world. Kushner identified Marriott as going beyond the brick and mortar of customer service by giving ‘ephemeral and digital ideas a physical home’. Kushner elaborates, “What was starting to evolve from the collage of entries, was that Marriott Hotels can be a hub, both for the travellers and for the locale as a way to plug in and create an interaction that might not
After much deliberation, Anjana Kallarackal was chosen. “I feel so lucky to be given the chance to co-create with professionals from Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly campaign to develop my idea further,” said Anjana Kallarackal. “I am really looking forward to traveling to London and designing healthy food options that would hopefully improve the journeys of other travelers like me.”
As a part of the Travel Brilliantly campaign, Anjana Kallarackal will work alongside Marriott to hone her idea from the concept stage to a working prototype. Von Ertfelda states, “This is 'roll your sleeves up'. It's not about dialogue. It's about breaking something apart until you have something that matters.” Marriott is committed to exceeding the ideation process by serving as a mentor throughout the development process. A co-creative symbiosis that Ertfelda believes, ‘demonstrates the courage as a company and brand to listen and understand what works, what doesn't. What's relevant and what's not’.