or the branding story….

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A portrait by Joan Baez, a famous activist shown on the wall of Sofitel. Source: Flickr









This pictures paints a monk, a young one. Not really yet, since he still got hair. But look at his eyes. Why is he so sad? Probably he has suffered something really bad, really horrible. The look that only very experienced people have..

That’s what the old, charismatic tour guide— the famous history ambassador of Hanoi Legend Sofitel Metropole told us. I want to believe it so bad.

Until later did I search deeper and saw this:

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Rusty Compass, a famous, so-called trustworthy travel guide site boldly claimed this is a “painting of a Hmong boy

Frustrated, I turn to question most of what he shares. As a tour guide, I am used to the mere fact that we make up things a lot of time. When I was taking tourist to Surprising cave in Ha Long bay, most of what we present there is just bullshit. I know, my co-workers know, probaly our customers are also well aware. But hell yeah, that doesn’t matter. After all, as a listener, to me

“A young monk with sad eyes and an agonizing past” sounds better than a H’mong boy

As a story teller, you want to give customer a specific feeling, a unique experience. If making up some small details help to help to construct that concept then why not?

Out of many 5-star hotels in Hanoi, Sofitel Metropole charges the higest price, and yet most people staying there feel so good and consider that as an unforgettable experience.

Why ?

Does this have something to do with

Great room?

Big pool?

Convinient location?

Good bar?

Great food?

Sure :), as a 5-star hotel it must have all of the above, but hey

The best beds are in L’ Opera

The biggest pool belongs to Thang Loi

Every 5-star hotel is situated just right in the center

The best bar goes to Sunset bar of Intercontinential

The greatest food must be created by chefs in Sofitel Plaza

Plus: no rooftop.

What help construct the strong impression in general is not the facilities which are tangible. On the contrary, it’s the intangible which sets it apart from the others

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Regarding story telling, Sofitel is excellent. It gets all of the facilities mentioned PLUS the history, and just this intangible feature creates the legend brand. Having had no chance to spend any night there yet lucky enough to follow and observe the bunker tour guided by the famous ambassador, it struck me hard why this is complimentary — which means free — to the guests. After all, nothing is free, right?

No receptionist can hold you more than 10 minutes, so the 1-hour tour becomes the perfect chance to sets its value proposition.

It’s not about Vietnam war. It’s about the VIP guests.

The tour was divided into 5 parts. The longest part is spent to talk about how many VIP guests have stayed there. There proudly hanging on the walls:

Here we have some notable faces:

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If you are a star and your budget is huge, you choose the best option. As simple as that. Why not? With Sofitel Metropole and its long history, the list of guests becomes an “asset” of the hotel. It is selling the status and style, very similar to the way Trek bikes used to use Lance Amstrong (yes, not anymore) and Nike used Tiger Woods.

The more famous they are, the more space in the hotel is spared for them. Hence there is no surprise when the biggest frames feature Bill Clinton, Angelina & Brad Pitt, Jane Fonda. They may not necessary the best, yet they are the most well-known. The guide mentioned Mark Zuckerberg as well (as he is just quite recent, there is no pic of him yet, but the high chance is that he will gets to be posted on the wall soon if FB keeps expanding like it is at the moment).

There is even a separate luxurious “Charlie Chapline Suite” for super VIP guests where “ a collection of Chaplin portraits hang from the wall and a series of Chaplin’s movies are provided to surround you with the memories of this well-known artist” as being said in the website.


 If you are like me, who is very ignorant of history and have no idea who the beautiful ladies in the black-white pictures are, no worries. They are famous and important, period. Dig deeper if you are interested.

Small details matter, yes

Me and my friend were sipping the “welcome back” drinks after the tour while he exclaimed

Hey this is not a real straw !


Oh yes, that’s a lemon grass trunk being used as a straw. Suddenly I remember the WC with traditional music being played and laughed. Yep, it’s small details that matter.

In the end If you are serious about small details then the big ones will definitely be covered, isn’t it?

Written on June 18th, 2015. BVD interpretation trip.


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