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The critical role that storytelling plays in shaping brand identity is a strategy that has caught on in recent years, especially in the luxury and premium sectors. Leading hospitality brands have a particular advantage when it comes to telling powerful stories, especially if the destination or building that the property is located in has a unique history or interesting narrative to tell.
MGallery Hotel Collection — a leading brand within the Accor Group, which has a portfolio of more than 100 individually styled hotel addresses around the world — uses the stories and local histories behind its hotels to inspire every aspect of the guest experience, from the art hanging on the walls to the dishes and cocktails served. SkiftX spoke with Yohan Amiot, vice president, luxury brand management at MGallery Hotel Collection, about how the brand has achieved this.
SkiftX: MGallery is one of a number of luxury brands under the Accor Group umbrella. How is it different from the group’s other luxury and premium brands, and how do you get that message across?
Yohan Amiot: MGallery is a collection of “storied” boutique hotels that are co-branded under the property name and the overall brand name, but each property is truly distinct from the other with its own name, feel, and design. Telling the story of each property’s unique history is the focus. It’s the only brand under the Accor Group to offer this kind of experience and approach to branding.
SkiftX: Can you give us a few examples of how MGallery actually tells these stories and what some of these stories are?
Amiot: Together with an outside creative agency, the property’s hotel owner and general manager, and our internal marketing teams, we strategize what the story of the property is and how it can best be told. Then the designer comes in to translate that story aesthetically to our guests.
There are a few iconic examples of the MGallery brand. Hôtel Molitor Paris is a great one. For 60 years, the building was home to Piscine Molitor, the most popular swimming pool in the city. It opened in 1929 and was where the first bikini was unveiled, in 1946. The pool was shut down in the late 1980s, which led to the pool falling into the hands of the underground. From about 1989 until 2012, it became a haven for street artists and skateboarders. Finally, 25 years after it first shut its doors, the Molitor reopened as a hotel, with two beautiful swimming pools that have been restored to their 1930s feel. There is street art located throughout the hotel as well. The goal was to weave the properties’ two different histories together into a compelling account.
Another example is Le Grand Hôtel de Cabourg, a seaside resort in Normandy with a Belle Époque feel that was once the home of Marcel Proust. The hotel has been renovated, but the look and feel remains the same from the Belle Époque period.
INK Hotel Amsterdam was home to the offices and printing house of Dutch newspaper De Tijd (The Times) until 1974. Traces of that history can now be found all over the hotel. You can find the original blueprints of De Tijd originating from 1904 on the walls of the Library Lounge and photographs placed in hallways and rooms. The hotel’s restaurant is even called Pressroom, where the property’s rich history is translated into an uncomplicated and relaxed dining experience.
Finally, Hotel Lindrum in Melbourne, which served as a teahouse in the 1900s, became a printing press in the 1960s, and then a billiard room in the 1970s and 1980s. The billiard room still exists in the hotel today. It features one of the property’s original billiard tables, as well as memorabilia of professional billiards player Walter Lindrum, the founder of the billiard room, in his championship era.
SkiftX: Beyond storytelling, MGallery also puts the well-being of its guests at the forefront and emphasizes self-care. What’s the thinking behind this?
Amiot: We know that our guests’ well-being is essential to their energy, beauty, and balance. We look at guest wellness through three pillars: the soul, the body, and design. We want to help guests nourish their souls through learning, discovery, and reconnection. When we talk about the body, we want our guests to empower healthy and balanced lifestyles — we’re steering away from performance and hardcore fitness, and more towards the food we serve in our restaurants and the quality of the mattresses in our rooms. And for design, we’re thinking about the attention we put into the details in our spas, fitness centers, and guest rooms. The goal is to provide a balanced well-being experience even if the property doesn’t have a spa or fitness center.
SkiftX: The Accor Group recently acquired 21c Museum Hotels’ portfolio, which was the first step into the North American market for the MGallery brand. Can you tell us more about the strategy behind this and what it means for the brand’s future?
Amiot: 21c Museum Hotels is focused on providing innovative cultural arts and culinary experiences to both guests and locals. It fit perfectly into the MGallery Hotel Collection. We integrated eight 21c Museum Hotels into our collection from across the U.S., located in Bentonville, Arkansas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Lexington, Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This marked the introduction of the MGallery brand into the North American market.
There are also three properties in the pipeline, with one in Chicago opening later in 2019, and then in Des Moines, Iowa and St. Louis, Missouri opening in 2020. The properties will retain their own individual identities, names, and logos, while enjoying the soft branding benefits and support of the MGallery Hotel Collection.
SkiftX: The brand has also partnered with French model and designer Ines de la Fressange for its Inspired by Her program, which offers services specifically designed for the needs of the female traveler. What are some of the ideas behind this initiative and what was the approach to creating it?
Amiot: Ines de la Fressange embodies the MGallery traveler, and she understands the unique, often unmet, needs of the female traveler. Inspired by Her was first envisioned by the female staff and general managers at MGallery hotels in 2013 as a means of addressing the demands of the female traveler. In 2017, we decided to do a deeper dive in an effort to upgrade and enhance the Inspired By Her program and worked with market research firm Ipsos to get a better idea of what female travelers wanted out of a hotel stay.
Based on these findings, we’ve designed specific products, services, and experiences to make their stays more comfortable. For example, each room has a bathrobe and set of slippers in a smaller size, a makeup mirror, and a high-quality hair dryer, while items such as nail polish remover, feminine products, face moisturizer, and sunscreen can be requested at reception. They’re small, but thoughtful gestures that can make a real difference.