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French It! Why Sofitel Is Celebrating the Return of Luxury Travel with A Little Joie de Vivre


The marketing and in-house creative leaders behind the hotel chain’s chic and quirky campaign explain to LBB’s Laura Swinton why they’re harnessing the unique charm of French idioms

French It! Why Sofitel Is Celebrating the Return of Luxury Travel with A Little Joie de Vivre
Your French teacher was never as stylish as the new campaign from Sofitel, which wraps up some unexpected language lessons within a high fashion packaging.

French It! is the new campaign from luxury hotel chain Sofitel, part of the hospitality group Accor. The campaign, developed in-house, has been envisioned as an edgier version of its ‘Live the French Way’ strategy. Sofitel is a global chain, but is leaning hard into its Gallic roots to underline the style, sophistication and playfulness of the brand’s voice and experience.

That Frenchness has always been core to the Sofitel brand, ever since it opened the doors of its first hotel in Strasbourg in 1964 - and now that attitude has spread to 120 hotels in five continents.

“Since the beginning, and naturally as a French brand, we have put a lot of thought and focus on gastronomy, chic design and attention to detail, wellness and beauty, always partnering with great French luxury brands to offer a true 360 journey,” says João Rocco, SVP global Sofitel brand leader. “Live the French Way is an attitude and a way of life that goes much beyond usual cliches. And for us, this is an opportunity to create unique memories, and delight our guests.”

Jean-Guilhem Lamberti, a former managing director at Publicis, is chief creative officer for Accor and was deeply involved in the development of the campaign. He runs the in-house creative team of around 30 people, hailing from China, Singapore, Latin America and Europe. He explains the concept behind the campaign itself, which breaks down quirky French expressions like “poser un lapin” (to stand someone up) or “monter sur ses grands chevaux” (to fly into a temper). 

“We wanted to make something a bit unexpected and fun,” explains Jean-Guilhem. “French is full of super colourful and fun expressions, and we wanted to bring them to life and express them visually in a modern way, and do our own kind of French lessons in a fun, engaging way.”

These quirky French idioms also allow the brand to showcase a particular aspect of the hotel experience. So “poser un lapin” becomes an urge to clear your schedule and have a ‘selfish’ at a Sofitel. “Tomber dans les pommes” means “to faint” - and is both a reference to the hotel’s comfort and its new line of apple-based pastries. And ‘Etre canon”, which means “to be stunning” is a nod to the indulgent and rejuvenating spa experience. The team hopes that some of these phrases find their way into the vernacular of non-French speaking audiences around the world, from the US to China.

Jean-Guilhem directed the six hero films of the campaign and worked with an in-house photographer to capture the campaign. 

Fronting the campaign is a trio of chic but highly creative women. Moon Kyu Lee is a Paris-based art director, originally from South Korea; Lomijoh is a former tennis pro, a model and ascending R&B singer-songwriter who recently released her first EP; and Helena Olmeda is a dancer and choreographer for dance company Vertigo Dance in Tel Aviv, Israel. This cast is a reflection of Sofitel’s target market, which is strongly female (60% female versus 40% male), 35-54 year old affluent and sophisticated travellers with an interest in luxury, fashion, arts, culture, travel and gastronomy.

“This has been a very complete journey because we worked from the concept to the very production of the assets. As I was saying, I filmed the campaign myself,” says Jean-Guilhem. “We had an internal photographer, part of my team shooting the visuals, we developed the music with an Australian composer and we went to shoot in Warsaw so it was very international. And it was super inspiring because this building has an amazing story and an amazing  architectural imprint that really got us all excited.”

Despite the fun and high-fashion frollicking, there’s some serious strategic thinking behind the campaign. After all, the campaign has to both reassure wary travellers who have been cooped up throughout various Covid-19 lockdowns, while also match the fantastical expectations of everyone yearning for fun and escape and the sensual delight of spending a few nights beyond the same four walls.

According to Alex Schellenberger, the chief luxury and premium brands officer at Accor, the public has been positively champing at the bit to travel. The group is seeing positive results and, as lockdowns lift, bookings sweep in - which reaffirms that the upbeat tone was the correct one to take.

“We see incredibly encouraging business results,” says Alex. “So, for the last couple of weeks, and even months, we do see every week is better than the previous one. So the overall global trends in terms of overall pickup of our business is very positive. So, that also tells you that people are actually now, as soon as borders re-opening in a certain region, very prone to experience and to travel and to stay at some of our hotels. Secondly, of course, we have social media listening. So, we're trying to pick up conversations on what our guests that engage with the brands on our social media channels are saying, we're trying to of course, then serve them in the best in the right ways.”

Joao Rocco agrees and says that the campaign is also a communication of the way Sofitel intends to match the heightened expectations of a post-Covid traveller, desperate for excitement and luxury, with a suitably delightful experience.

“Everyone is very excited to be able to travel again,” says João. “People are really expecting to celebrate life in a lighter way, in a more playful way. And really, this is what we believe in at Sofitel and this is what French It is telling people. That means, ‘come to Sofitel to have a different experience, to experience something that is a little unusual. And that way you can also have fun and this is what we aim to offer’.”

These first six films mark the start of French It!, but the Sofitel team has many plans for the coming months. French It! will roll out throughout the hotels, and in coming months the group is planning to open new flagship hotels in Panama, Colombia and Spain.


Agency / Creative
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Categories: Hotels, Travel

LBB Editorial, Tue, 09 Nov 2021 17:02:08 GMT