​Sofitel Melbourne On Collins paints up an experiential marketing campaign to celebrate the arts

Hotel group partners with Dulux on an Asian-infused High Tea buffet where guests are invited to transform chocolate Terracotta Warriors back to their original colours

Sofitel Melbourne On Collins is definitely painting outside the box with its latest experiential campaign.

The hotel property has partnered with Dulux on an Asian-infused High Tea buffet where guests are invited to paint chocolate Terracotta Warriors back to their original colours. The campaign celebrates the Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Sofitel’s associate director of marketing and communications, Evan Hinrichsen, told CMO the collaborative marketing campaign was put together in an effort to get marketing involved right from the beginning of an idea, rather than just promoting it at the end.

“Marketing is becoming more like a support function in hotels. Pastry teams will come up with desserts and cocktails to showcase, and concentrate on the flavour while being less concerned about the look and feel and the theme,” he said. “And then marketing comes in at the end.

“However, we wanted to explore this exhibition in a visual and themed way. We all saw the Terracotta Warriors as an opportunity to present an idea to the pastry team we would run with and they were really receptive to that. Not only did we all put this experience together, we also found we established a tight-knit function when we all strive for the same dream – to bring more guests into the Hotel. It really highlights collaboration in marketing and what it can achieve.”

High Tea goers will need to use their imagination to choose from four flowing fountains of edible Dulux Mint Twist, Dulux Symphony Red, Dulux Midas Touch, and Dulux China White colours. The campaign execution also includes elements of past and present marketing.

“We built a massive 180cm by 80cm chocolate display with 300 Terracotta Warriors using 44kg of chocolate, which reflects the burial pit that the Terracotta Warriors come from in Xi’an, China, with signage that speaks to our long term partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria and the Melbourne Winter masterpieces,” Hinrichsen said. 

“This new high tea concept is quite unique, and I’m incredibly proud of the team collaborating with the chefs and operation staff, to build this concept, secure the partnership with one of the most trusted paint brands, and unearthing the link between the past and present.

“We need to create great experiences as a hotel network.”

The campaign, two months in the planning, will be measured in the same way Sofitel measures general guest feedback – through surveys and website monitoring.

“We measure customer feedback in various guest surveys, and monitor trip advisor and travel sites, which all give us feedback on our experiences. We are already getting good feedback from the high tea,” Hinrichsen said.

Hotel customer feedback service provider, TrustYou, sends out the surveys and supplies the feedback to Sofitel, so it can measure the success of this and other campaigns and adjust its marketing strategy if necessary.

“This campaign is at the top end of experience. We’ve done previous campaigns, when Dior was out here we created some cocktails around this, but in terms of experience and collaboration, this high tea is a bigger campaign for us," Hinrichsen continued. 

“We base our marketing around sponsorship of the arts, so we position ourselves as the hotel of the arts. At any time we have up to 16 different exhibitions around the hotel to support local community artists. We are working with our bartender now to collaborate on some funky cocktails in our bar for when Chicago musical comes to town at the end of the year.

“As marketers, we need to push the envelope continuously.”

Sponsorship of the arts ensures coverage in online publications for Sofitel, but the group also undertakes regular email marketing campaigns, with social media the biggest marketing platform it uses. The hotel also works with influencers, and Hinrichsen said all facets of marketing needed an influencer strategy.

Guests dining for the high tea are also incentivised to paint their warriors and share via social media with the ‘best and worst’ painted warrior rewarded each month with a prize.

“The competition is a bit of fun and a natural extension of what our guests would be doing, however we also added the ‘worst’ painted warrior after I tried several times to make a decent looking warrior and couldn’t,” he added. 

“I’m just so proud of the marketing team, collaborating with the pastry team to develop each and every aspect of the promotion, which has tremendous benefits for the campaign. Melbourne is basically the mecca of food in Australia, and while chefs are focused on fusing new flavours together, the joint effort that marketing was able to contribute was to deliver their natural resilience to make the impossible achievable by sourcing the Terracotta Warrior chocolate moulds, set up tests of how to paint on chocolate, carefully consider partnerships like Dulux, and work on food concepts that are unique and on trend to present to pastry. 

“What we’re all discovered from working on this campaign is that previously each department has worked in isolation and assisted each other after the creative process has concluded. Joining together has united us, produced an exceptionally clever niche high tea that has been picked up by major publications that traditionally hotel’s struggle to get published.”  

High tea gastronomes can embrace their inner artist at Sofi’s Lounge from 2.30pm every Saturday and Sunday  until 13 October 2019.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu   

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