‘Hotel with a soul’ lands in Montreal

A new hotel recently joined the strip on Montreal's Sherbrooke Street and it hopes to beckon consumers, in particular the fair sex, through an emotion-based campaign.

A new hotel recently joined the strip on Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street and it hopes to beckon consumers, in particular the fair sex, through an emotion-based campaign.

Sofitel flung open its doors in mid-October, marking the 10th Sofitel location in North America from Parisian parent company Accor, which collaborated with Montreal-based Canpro Investments for this project.

General manager Jean-Christophe Gras, who has moved from Sofitel New York, where he was director of operations, says the company’s print advertising reflects its commitment to ensuring the satisfaction of its guests. The image is split in half – on top is a photograph of a smiley woman standing in front of a prominent building on a clear day; the bottom half is a cityscape of Montreal at dusk.

‘There is an image of a business woman because it’s a niche that we want to work on, and one that we are definitely developing in other Sofitel locations,’ says Gras, who expects 50% of his clientele to hail from Canada and 25% from both the U.S. and Europe. ‘I am convinced that we can build the busines woman market here.’

Adds Johanne Caron, director of sales and marketing for the hotel: ‘We want to bring to the market a higher level of service – a hotel with a soul – so that when guests come in they feel that it is different. This is what we want to convey with our ads.’

Produced by Paris agency TBWA, the creative was adapted for the local market by Montreal-based BCP Consultants and debuted in business magazines like enRoute and Time’s Canadian edition this summer to announce Sofitel’s arrival. It will be followed up by another print effort in 2003 that will ‘make people want to experience who we are,’ promises Caron.

The 26-floor tower, which is geared at leisure travellers as well, is reminiscent of an art gallery; it has a minimalist approach – the work of Montreal-based interior design firm GSM Design – with sculptures and paintings displayed throughout. There is a black natural stone floor in the lobby, which also houses a library containing a collection of books on the history of Montreal. Despite the fact that Sofitel is a chain – it will boast 160 units in 53 countries by the end of the year – it takes the approach of a ‘hotel boutique with a human touch,’ says Gras.

‘There is a human presence – we are still able to smile, ask how one’s wife is doing and check if the dog is okay. That is the human touch that we can bring to the customer.’

Gras plans to stay away from TV commercials, as he thinks it will denigrate Sofitel’s upscale image, but Internet and direct mail flush out the marketing strategy. Both are geared at the business world and emphasize Sofitel’s pricing strategy, pointing out for example that room rates start at $169.

Internet has mainly consisted of an e-mail blitz directed at travel agents in North America, while direct material is landing in the mailboxes of meeting planners and key contacts in corporations in Montreal, Toronto and the eastern U.S. Private tours have also been set up for those in the vicinity.

‘Showing off the property is very important when clients don’t know what we are about,’ says Caron, who adds that Sofitel’s competitors in Montreal include the Ritz Carlton, Hotel Omni and the Inter-Continental. (In the past, Caron worked for the Four Seasons Hotel for seven years and most recently was with American Express in Montreal.)

Down the road, Sofitel will expand to Toronto and Vancouver as well, although Gras couldn’t say exactly when that would happen.