L’Oreal unveiled its ‘YSL Beauty Hotel’ in downtown Toronto last week, showcasing a unique brand activation which has been in only a handful of cities globally. The marketing initiative also included a retail component for the first time, exemplifying the merger between retail and experience.
The YSL Beauty Hotel involved taking over the trendy 12-room Hotel Ocho at 195 Spadina Avenue for two days, on September 12 and 13, to create an interactive experience for its ‘hotel guests’ that included activities pertaining to the brand. Parent company L’Oreal described the YSL Hotel as being “A celebration of the brand and its new makeup and fragrance launches and innovations.”
The experience was akin to being in a hotel. There was a ‘check-in’ counter with a wall of keys for visitors to choose from, some of which featured prizes. The theme of prizes extended to other parts of the hotel, including a ‘crane game’ where the goal was to grab a box full of YSL beauty products.
YSL branding could be found throughout the hotel building. A powder room showcased YSL lipsticks on the ground floor, for example. Branding continued throughout the space, which included a DJ, wall of speakers, and a ‘selfie bed’ for visitors to take photos to share on social media.
The second floor included a digital pop-up shop, where visitors could test the look of beauty products using a YouCam makeup app which features augmented reality and artificial intelligence technology. After deciding on a look, personalized makeup consultations with YSL beauty experts were made available. The pop-up shop added an element of retail to the hotel activation where guests could buy from an assortment of products on-site through an online portal and have them delivered in less than 72-hours. There was also immediate gratification in the pop-up purchase process with all purchasers receiving a complimentary beauty kit filled with deluxe samples of YSL favourites.
The YSL Beauty Hotel also featured its own ‘nightclub’ where on the evening of September 13, DJs and bands performed for guests. Ultra-violet lights with ‘lashings of black’ filled the room, in an effort to ‘bring a bottle of Black Opium to life’. The Black Opium theme continued upstairs with one of the hotel rooms being dedicated specifically to the fragrance.
The YSL Beauty Hotel was busy throughout its two days of activation, and is an example of brands building customer rapport by creating memorable experiences through a creative use of product placement and promotion. The goal is to “wow the consumer”, according to Carl Morisset, General Manager for L'Oréal Designer Brands in Canada. As consumers continue to seek out experiences at the expense of traditional retail, more brands are likely to activate in unusual ways in order to be rememberable at a time of intense competition amongst retail brands.
And competition remains fierce as more beauty brands enter the market while others expand their offerings. Some brands are expanding their distribution through multi-brand retailers, while others are also opening standalone units with a direct-to-consumer model. In the case of YSL Beauty, it doesn’t currently operate standalone units in Canada, though it has an ever-expanding distribution network through Nordstrom, Holt Renfrew, Hudson’s Bay, Sephora, as well as in Shoppers Drug Mart’s BeautyBOUTIQUE concept which continues to gain traction and grow across the country.
Toronto was the sixth city in the world to see a ‘YSL Beauty Hotel’ activation this year. Other cities included Paris (in January), Tokyo (in April), Shanghai (in June), Seoul (in August) and immediately prior to Toronto, New York City had a YSL Hotel for September 8 and 9. The Toronto YSL Beauty Hotel followed previous activations for the brand in Toronto, including the May 2017 ‘YSL Beauty Club’ which was also a hit with attendees.