Hot on the heels of their historic merger with Starwood, Marriott is continuing to make headlines with their newest project—a life-sized testbed for new services, rooms, and amenities, housed within a Charlotte, North Carolina hotel dubbed “M Beta”. Within its walls, guests have a chance to participate in a kind of open beta test for ideas that Marriott hopes to later export to its mainstream locations. Its redesigned rooms, open spaces, wide range of on-demand digital services, and “home”-ish feel form a preview of the new direction that they hope to take the Marriott brand in following their merger, as part of a larger reinvention of their image. Long seen as a reliable “standard” in the hotel business, they’re looking to rebrand themselves with a more cutting-edge, innovative, and “modern” look, and M Beta’s addition to their catalog represents the most visible part of that new push.
One of the primary keywords to describe M Beta with is “open”; it aims to capture an inviting, communal feel with its plentiful public spaces, open-kitchen restaurant, and the stadium-style seating of their in-house coffee bar. All of these serve to encourage interaction, whether between guests and other guests, guests and staff, and everything in between, promoting the idea of a hotel as a social space in addition to a work/lodging one. The “open” ethos can also be seen in their push for greater transparency, procuring locally-sourced ingredients for their food and drinks and proudly proclaiming it as such. Traditional front desk check-in is eschewed in favor of having friendly associates with electronic pads greet guests at the door, and the dining space is host to a series of rotating entertainment and educational events for guests. All of these together suggest a shift toward a more “millennial” audience and style, which emphasizes social interaction and sharing. They even feature a type of real-life “like” button in the form of the Beta Buttons scattered throughout the hotel, which allow guests to show and share their approval of select features. Millennials are seen as a rapidly growing demographic within the business travel world, and their desire for work/leisure balance (the so-called “bleisure” concept) and heavy use of technology and social sharing make them likely targets for M Beta’s new design philosophy. Through this new marketing push, coupled with the new features themselves, Marriott is on track to reinvent their image for a new generation of travelers, creating a distinct identity for their flagship brand and differentiating themselves not just from the rest of their portfolio, but from the competition as well.