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November 24, 2016

Brands Turn to Digital Command Centers

In the digital media landscape, there is oh so much chatter and so little time. That is unless you’re receiving and processing data in real-time like a growing number of brands are getting better at doing, thanks to the advent of the digital command center—an in-house resource that allows companies to track digital conversations, trends and campaigns, and turn them into actionable insights.

Marriott uses its digital command center, M Live Studio, to gauge sentiment on trending topics about the hotel chain’s 19 different brands and 4,500 properties spanning the globe. Located in the U.S., China, Caribbean and Latin America region, as well as Europe, and equipped with wall-covering screens similar to those of a live news control room, M Live is able to listen to social media chatter, filter posts and drive engagement within their properties through its partnership with HYP3R, a platform that uses geo-fencing technology. With this platform, Marriott can see every public posting on a social media platform done from within their properties.

“We might use M Live social media listening tools to identify a guest having a birthday at one of our hotels,” says Diana Plazas, vice-president of brand, marketing and digital for Marriott International in the Caribbean and Latin America. “Then we’ll work with the property to send a birthday cake or other amenity to the guest’s room, ensuring they have a memorable experience.”

Thanks to Marriott’s digital command center, the franchise is able to put culture, fun and entertainment at the forefront of its interaction with customers. In May, when the Running Man dance took over social media, M Live identified the trend and worked with its Renaissance São Paulo Hotel to create a video showcasing its associates and hotel in a creative, relevant way.

In July, Nestlé opened a digital command center to manage data for its eight water brands, and to locate and engage with customers, while improving marketing campaigns. Once upon a time, Nestlé outsourced these tasks to advertising agencies. Now, Nestlé’s brand managers, agencies and Salesforce work together to report in real-time and develop long-term plans.

Will digital command centers wipe out the need for agencies?

It’s unlikely, considering firms such as Edelman are building out their own command centers. The public relations agency’s award-winning Social Intelligence Command Center does real-time monitoring, and creates content and campaigns based on social media insights. At the heart of the center, content optimization and data-driven transmedia storytelling are paramount. The center also enables a rapid response protocol for crisis management and staff training.

Do all companies need to become media companies to be competitive?

According to Edelman Digital, all companies will become media companies. For a number of brands, this is proving to be the case.

Gatorade was one of the first brands to have a digital command center. Launched in 2010, the Gatorade Mission Control Center, based in Chicago, analyzes social chatter and creates branded content. In its early days, the center monitored a popular campaign that featured a song by rap artist David Banner. When Gatorade saw how much social media buzz the commercials were driving, the company developed a full-length song with Banner and shared it with fans.

Why is real-time data processing so important?

“It is critical to the happiness of our guests that we are listening where they are talking. If they share a complaint on social media or an exceptional experience they have had, they expect immediate feedback,” says Plazas. “Through M Live we have the ability to engage with guests in real-time, addressing their concerns and helping to ensure they have a great stay.”

Plazas also shared that the practical component of the need for real-time data revolves around the fact that some guests may only be booked to stay at Marriott hotels for a few days, or even a few hours if there for a meeting.

“We want to ensure we are capturing opportunities to interact with people in real-time, so we can respond and interact at the moment it is most relevant,” she explains.

The future of digital command centers

In 2015, Forrester predicted that digital command centers would become essential for organizations to achieve their marketing objectives. Whether you’re a consumer or marketer, the impact of digital media is undeniable. The question is whether, amid all the social listening, real-time sentiment analysis and social media engagement, brands are becoming better at creating their products and services.


Melissa Jun Rowley is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, and content strategist with a passion for all things tied to social innovation. She is currently the founder and editor-in-chief of Incentivize, a digital media company focused on the convergence of capitalism and activism. Used with the permission of