Jean-Guy de Gabriac on the secrets of spa marketing and signature treatments

Jean-Guy de Gabriac talks to Spa Executive about spa marketing, guest experience, and creating the best signature treatments.

Jean-Guy de Gabriac is the CEO of TIP TOUCH International and an award-winning advisor and educator, dedicated to guest experience in Spa, Wellness, and Hospitality.

He is the founder of World Wellness Weekend, to be celebrated by 2,000 properties in 100 countries on 21-22 September 2019. He serves as Conference producer of World Spa & Wellness Convention London; Board Member of the International Massage Association; and Chair of the “17 Sustainable Development Goals Initiative” of the Global Wellness Institute.

Perhaps lesser known facts: he holds a masters degree in marketing and communications and once worked at Paramount studios in Los Angeles, in script development for Ridley Scott.

Among de Gabriac’s areas of expertise are spa marketing and creating signature treatments that draw attention and elevate the guest experience. So, Spa Executive asked him to share some tips on these challenging areas of spa and wellness.

Here are five highlights we took away from the conversation on how to improve your spa marketing and guest experience from Jean Guy de Gabriac:

Tell a story

De Gabriac says many spa directors think that just because something is a new treatment or a new program it must be newsworthy.

“But is it that exciting?” He asks. “There is a big difference between telling something to someone and having that person nod their head and say ‘OK. That’s interesting,’ and seeing someone stop and stare at you, because they are completely absorbed in what you just said. Now you have their full attention. This is what we should strive for when we put information out there. We should be focused on the story and the emotion it evokes. What draws people together is stories. Make sure that the stories about your spa, your team, your unique services are compelling.”

Look to your team for inspiration

“Spas should focus on the talent and the enthusiasm of the team,” says de Gabriac. “My specialty isn’t just creating signature treatments or signature programs, it’s focusing on talent.

“The secret of the success when creating a signature massage for a brand or a venue, is not just researching and drawing on sense of place, but involving people who live and work there, so we can co-create. A training with me is never a “training,” it’s a “gathering” of people who are meant to be together in the same room for a few days. And when they come out of that room they co-own what we’re going to say. It works best when everyone involved knows that they’re stakeholders and storytellers.”

Be less product oriented and more fun oriented

“Most of the time”, de Gabriac says, “signature treatments are 60- or 90-minute treatments that are packages in disguise. There’s a scent, a scrub, a short massage, and an express facial, and that’s a signature. I believe we can do a lot better. Whenever I create signature treatments for brands, I look for the fun part, something that is going to change the chemistry inside the body with more endorphins and serotonin. Associates should love doing that signature experience, and guests should want to tell their friends, and want to come back for more! In Los Angeles, people say “There’s no business like show business.” In our industry it should be “there’s no business like repeat business!”

For example, “AHAVA, the Israeli brand known for active products from the Dead Sea, asked me to recreate the sensation of floating on the massage bed, because when people come to the Dead Sea that’s what they want to experience: to float effortlessly. The challenge was to induce that anti-gravity sensation on a massage table that is not a floating bed… Mission accomplished: people feel “transported,” “weightless,” like they are “floating. That was the fun part, taking people to the Dead Sea without the jet lag.

“Another example is the VAGHEGGI Irritual Signature massage called “Festina Lente”. This brand-new 50-minute massage brings both therapist and guest to a state of FLOW with 3 bespoke fragrances designed by a famous French nose. The massage protocol is written like a sensorial poem, an ‘Ode to Nature.’ Manual techniques allied with great body mechanics to prevent repetitive stress injuries become like a dance for therapists and induces the sensation of blooming for clients. From the progressive gentle stretches weaved into the massage protocol, people actually say they feel a little taller!”

Don’t be standard. Be superior.

“One of my specialties for the past 15 years is creating SOPs,” says de Gabriac, “but I don’t like the term ‘Standard Operating Procedures.’ I understand that consistency is important, especially within properties of a group. When you welcome people in London, Paris, Dubaï, you want them to find the same elements, or at least recognizable elements in every place. But authenticity is much more important than consistency. I like the term ‘Superior Operating Procedures’ — and these should be the minimum elements of what guests can expect to experience when they come to you.”

He points to the example of Six Senses, which focuses on Guest Experience Management rather than Customer Relationship Management. “They have Guest Experience Makers, or GEMs. When you arrive at Six Senses, you are greeted by your GEM. Your GEM has done research about you, sent you questions by email asking what you want to pursue in your time there, and will help you curate your guest experience. This an SOP — Superior Operating Procedure.”

Under promise and over deliver

Sometimes, de Gabriac says, “spas use a lot of superlatives in their marketing language. Words like ‘amazing’, ‘ultimate’, ‘excellence’… Probably, the only adjective spas have never used yet is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 😉”

And since everyone has a different idea of what is “amazing,” there’s a lot of room for disappointment there. On the other hand, it’s much easier to impress when you hold back on the hyperbole.

Rather, de Gabriac suggests, we should invite people to try out authentic, transformative, and joyful experiences and make up their own minds about them.

He says, “Never overpromise and definitely, always over deliver.”


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