VOL. MMXIII..No. 210

Bold Moves | Strategy in Perspective

B. on Brand Develops New Hospitality Concept for Lotte Resorts and Hotels





In Seoul, South Korea, the hospitality market is booming.


The fact is, globally, the entire industry has gone through a seismic shift where the “design experience” is an increasingly integral part of every hospitality brand, but Korea is only just now catching the wave.


Say hello to L7 Hotels.


Lotte Hotels and Resorts is one of South Korea’s premier hospitality and real estate developers with 40 hotel chains throughout the world. Last year they reacted to the market with their own concept of a “lifestyle hotel.”


Executives there knew they needed to be radically different from competitors. Say hello to L7 Hotels.




At top, at L7’s Myeongdong location,  with a view of the front reception area; below, the bar. The hotel was conceived prior to b. on brand’s engagement, but nevertheless served as a valuable opportunity to validate idea for subsequent L7 hotels.


b. on brand was called on to upgrade the brand, which was only launched last year but without a real concept in place — other than the usual signatures of “boutique” style of hotels: bold colors, cute phrases printed on walls, and modern furnishings.


“Lotte is a massive company but executives there are keenly aware of what it takes to be competitive,” says b. on brand’s Bertrand Pellegrin, who has worked with Lotte before on the development of a luxury department store for Lotte.


“They can be overly cautious in experimenting with new concepts, so my job was to build a pragmatic paradigm for L7 while also motivating teams to challenge the status quo of hotel design and programming.”


Globally, the entire industry has gone through a seismic shift where the “design experience” is an increasingly integral part of every hospitality brand.


L7 Hotels can best be described as “affordable luxury,” or what others  term as, “no frills chic hotels.”


It’s all the same thing: lots of style but little in the way of services. So that became the big question: how do you make the guest experience memorable and yet also stand out from competitors ?


b. on brand redefined and developed L7’s brand identity and experience guidelines in order to provide a solid structure for the brand story. While the company had already opened one L7-branded property in 2016, it became quickly evident that it lacked authenticity.


Style does not always equal substance.




b. on brand cautioned Lotte on the overuse of the color yellow, which after a year, had become too one-note and trivial.


b. on brand’s guidelines are now the core for the design of two new L7 Hotels in Seoul, one in Gangnam and another in Hongdae.


“With Gangnam, we knew we needed to create something more glamorous and distinctive,” says Bertrand, who has worked on several projects in Seoul before.


“The area is well-known for its nightlife and upscale crowd. But the building’s footprint had a lot of limitations, so we really had to be more strategic in the programming, design, and the overall look and feel.”



b. on brand’s foundation concept for the L7 brand, where creativity and community are central to the experience and drive three zones of activity.


“With Gangnam, we knew we needed to create something more glamorous and distinctive.”


b. on brand worked simultaneously on L7’s Hongdae property which needed to reflect the neighborhood’s long cultural history of music, art, and vibrant student scene.


“The Hongdae project was the most fun, in that we could take a lot more risks with the design and programming of the spaces — everything from whimsical interactive displays to the use of both rich and humble materials in the interior design plans.”



The hotel team engaged in a series of workshops designed to distill the essence of the brand experience and customer journey.



Key to the success of the project was establishing a strategic roadmap for Lotte’s design and operations teams. Bertrand led a series of discovery workshops and exploratory field trips to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of category competitors and surface best-in-class hospitality concepts.


b. on brand also developed a series of prototype environments and experience protocols designed to define and underscore the over-arching L7 brand principles.


Lotte had already developed initial design concepts even before establishing the brand story. Bertrand collaborated with design teams to radically alter existing floor plans, only weeks before construction was to begin.


Furthermore, each hotel needed to have a common thread that would make all L7 Hotels identifiable, memorable, and compelling reflection of the surrounding community – in short, a “sense of place.”


“A big part of why I loved working on this project was because of the team,” says Bertrand. “They worked really hard to challenge themselves and collaborate in the process of exploring new ideas in hospitality design and amenities. That can be unusual in the corporate culture of these big Korean companies, where outspokenness and creativity is not always encouraged.”

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