Last January, Godiva created a chocolate-walled lounge for In Style's Golden Globes after-party, but for its yearly Valentine's Day competition this year, the chocolate brand is going one step further, with an experiential marketing stunt that offers a weekend stay at a hotel suite made almost entirely of chocolate. At Divine Studio on Tuesday afternoon, 30 members of the press gathered for a first glimpse at the grand prize, which will ultimately be enjoyed only once, at the Bryant Park Hotel. Erica Lapidus, head of public relations and promotions for the Belgian-based chocolatier, worked with public relations firm Alison Brod and Los Angeles-based designer Larry Abel to produce a wall-to-wall Godiva-loaded room that doesn't melt at room temperature.
“I had to imagine the perfect chocolate-lover's fantasy,” Abel said about the suite, soon to be rebuilt at the hotel for the sweepstakes winner. Abel, who has worked with Godiva for four years, said this was the biggest and most extravagant project yet. “It took a team of 14 to bring the brand to life, beginning in L.A. and continuing with the two-day installment in New York,” he said. Godiva reps wouldn't comment on the cost of the products used, and Abel admitted there was too much for him to even estimate the number of pounds of chocolate.
From the initial concept to the finished design, Abel says he put more than 1,000 hours of work into the piece, which, to him, is more than a simple showcase of colorful chocolates. “I considered the art elements, how I would invent a really cool, unusual space with rich browns, varied textures, and mixtures of classic and contemporary designs,” he said. For Lapidus, the goal of the suite was to create a “unique culinary experience,” which, despite being edible, will hopefully be “more admired than nibbled on.”
Playing with interactive components, Abel included a crystal ice bucket filled with white chocolate truffles, books that open to pieces of chocolate in place of pages, and even edible flowers. He also created interpretations of two paintings: a Jackson Pollock-inspired canvas splattered with multicolored chocolate and a re-creation of Gustav Klimt's “The Kiss.” “The Kiss” in particular was a challenge for Abel, who describes the piece as an explosion of gold, ribbons, foils, and mint cherry cordials. The Pucci-inspired chocolate upholstery on the armchairs and the chocolate mosaic on the dining room table are also deeply detailed designs that pushed Abel to come up with something visually appealing while using chocolates from every Godiva collection.
To add a little life to the suite, Godiva tapped Heroes star Ali Larter to help promote the competition (which anyone can enter by purchasing a $23 heart-marked gift box) for reasons beyond her pretty celebrity face. The recently engaged actress claims to carry tins of Godiva chocolates, and last year requested a Godiva cake for her birthday. “This year, Ali Larter, a huge Godiva fan and bride-to-be, best embodied the brand,” said Randi Peck, vice president of lifestyle at Alison Brod. Larter, the only non-press guest at the event, participated as the roving centerpiece and a draw for the photographers.
The Decadence Suite is only part of Godiva's promotional package; other sinful goodies include a year's supply of Godiva chocolates and a private chocolate tasting led by Godiva's executive chef and chocolatier, Thierry Muret. “This is our most extraordinary prize to date,” Lapidus said of the suite, “which is why we’ve already started brainstorming ways to top it next year.”