Lynne Ormrod (1)

CMO Spotlight

Where Chocolate Dreams Come Alive: Hotel Chocolat's Marketing Lead On AI

Hotel Chocolat's Lynne Ormrod explores the innovative use of AI in their Velvetiser campaign, lauded by System1's Test Your Ad platform

By Dani Gibson

Recently, Hotel Chocolat introduced a fresh creative platform aimed at boosting its highly popular Velvetiser drinking chocolate system, utilising the capabilities of generative AI.

The 30-second ad by Gravity Road transports viewers on a whimsical adventure through the vibrant interior of the Velvetiser appliance. Accompanied by a lively soundtrack, the journey includes a swirling river of chocolate, cacao beans, and lush foliage. Finally, a cascading waterfall of velvety smooth hot chocolate fills a Hotel Chocolat cup, seamlessly returning viewers to reality.

Hotel Chocolat Marketing Lead Lynne Ormrod explains: "With this work we've loved being able to use Gen AI tools and CGI to bring to life how it feels to both make the drinking chocolate with the Velvetiser and the anticipation of tasting it. A velvety smooth cup of drinking chocolate is the epitome of chocolate happiness.”

Ormrod is a seasoned and ambitious CMO, having worked in the telecoms industry for over 20 years with brands like BT, EE/Orange and TMobile. In 2019, she made the decision to cross over into the world of confectionery as Hotel Chocolat's director of Marketing. In 2022, she became Marketing lead.

So we sat down with Ormrod to unravel the brand's latest innovation, its achievement of the maximum star rating in System1’s Test Your Ad platform, why AI serves as a tool to enhance, rather than replace, human creativity, and how her experience in telecoms prepared her for Hotel Chocolat.

Your latest campaign used AI to inspire the creative strategy, and also leveraged GenAI tools throughout the production process. What was the rationale behind this approach?

We knew that we wanted to bring to life the immersive world of the Velvetiser, how it makes you feel anticipating and enjoying the velvety smooth hot chocolate. AI helped us in the early phases of creative strategy to imagine and explore what that world could be in a way that would be difficult with traditional visualisation methods. Being able to see and move through the world, identify different techniques we wanted to use (and not use!) helped us to be really aligned and confident before going into production. Using GenAI tools throughout the production process also enabled us to produce a creative execution that we wouldn’t have even been able to consider with our budgets even a year ago – it has opened up new avenues for us in how we can approach ideas and executions.

The campaign has been awarded the maximum star rating in System1’s Test Your Ad platform - tell us your aspirations around the campaign?

Our brand mission is to make people and nature happy through re-inventing chocolate and our creative aspiration for the campaign was to make people as happy watching the advert as drinking a velvetised hot chocolate does (quite a challenge!). Working with System 1 really helps us to understand how to maximise both creative and branding to ensure that we are driving our key metrics of driving brand and product consideration.

Do you think AI will replace human creativity?

My view is that AI is and will continue to become a tool that unlocks, enables and accelerates human creativity. At a very basic level, it can be utilised to take away repetitive tasks and workloads, freeing up time to spend on more creative tasks. But it also has the potential to enable creativity to be explored faster, in more stimulating ways, it can build on and challenge ideas, open up new possibilities and help us to imagine things that have been limited by the tools that we have today. For smaller businesses and brands it opens up creative possibilities that would have been beyond their reach historically, leapfrogging some traditional paths, which makes it really exciting to see where it goes.

This is your first FMCG gig. As a former telecoms marketer how did your extensive experience in that sector shape your current role at Hotel Chocolat?

Firstly it is lovely to have a tangible, physical product to work with that you can see through the complete cycle from farming to creating and designing the product, manufacturing it and then selling directly to our customers. But there are a lot of similarities, both having a large direct retail footprint and the importance of creating experiences in those spaces, the importance of customer engagement, loyalty and return purchase as well as subscription models for products like the Velvetiser. Hotel Chocolat is an important part of our customer's life, whether it is as a self-treat, purchasing an amazing gift for a loved one or as part of their leisure time through our cafes and events. Telecom brands, and in particular mobile networks, are part of all of those occasions for customers too, so there are more parallels than may appear on the surface. The deep customer relationships and brand engagement we can build by being part of these occasions has been key in both sectors.

What led you to pursue a career in marketing, and what aspects of it do you find most rewarding?

I didn’t start out specifically looking for marketing roles but was lucky enough to be asked to get involved in marketing as part of an early role in a small business that I worked in when I first left university. I fell in love with how marketing can drive change – whether that is how a customer thinks about your product or your brand, how it can move them into action or how it can drive change within a business (in both the short and long term). Seeing the impact of what I do for a brand that I love is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I have also found that marketing opens up endless opportunities, to learn, be challenged and try something new, always needing to be adaptable and take leaps means that your career is always evolving.

What advice would you give to a new generation of talent thinking of getting a job in marketing?

Go for it! It is a career that enables you to be at the heart of driving profitable business growth. Marketing has a wide mix of different disciplines and is unique in how it needs to bring together skills in customer focus, commerciality, creativity and change delivery. I have worked with an amazing group of people throughout my career, learnt loads (still learning!) and has enabled me to have a really varied and interesting career.

What’s next for Hotel Chocolat and what are your immediate plans for the brand now that it has been acquired by the US confectionary giant Mars?

The acquisition by Mars is an exciting opportunity for Hotel Chocolat and it's business as usual for now.


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