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I’m in a bitterly cold, pristinely beautiful Zürich preparing to fly home for the weekend after catching up with The Nuance Group President & CEO Roberto Graziani and his Managing Director Europe Andrea Belardini over an enjoyable dinner last night.
Zürich is one of my favourites airports though I have to say I am always a little concerned at the size of the Lost and Found department (below) when I arrive, that just about vies with the vast Arrivals duty free shop in terms of scale. Is there something they’re not telling us?
I probably wasn’t the dinner date that Roberto had hoped for on Valentine’s Day but I certainly managed, I think, to make the day worthwhile for him. More of that in a moment.
The timing of my visit to Zürich could not have been any better, though, for me. For Valentine’s Day happened also to be the final day of the ‘Trinity Challenge’ promotion, a Trinity Forum-prompted joint initiative from three brand companies (Nestlè international Travel Retail, P&G Prestige and Diageo Global Travel & Middle East); London Heathrow Airport and World Duty Free Group; and my departure via Terminal 5 gave me the perfect opportunity to see it first hand.
The promotion involves a free gift wrapping service with a hand-written calligraphy message for anyone buying any of the products nominated by the three brands.
On the gift wrapping and calligraphy desk (pertinently to the spirit of Trinity, located in the middle of the concourse courtesy of Heathrow Airport), Farah the calligrapher and her colleague Lily told me that the campaign has been “absolutely brilliant”.
Farah, who discovered the art of calligraphy at the age of 10, has been overwhelmed with demand for her services, which allow passengers to choose their own message and have it written on the spot. “We’ve had five marriage proposals, including one customer who brought a platinum ring at the airport and asked for it to be wrapped, along with a message ‘Marry me’,” she said. “So many customers have told us we should do this all year-round.
“I do feel that many people would not have bought the products at all [without this promotion] and they have been saying that to us constantly over the past two weeks.”
Farah said there has been a surge in sales of the featured Diageo, P&G and Néstle items thanks to the campaign. Customers have even been able to have other items wrapped – provided they also buy one of the featured products, thus driving significant incremental sales.
She had encouraged the engagement with consumers by laying out a splendid array of varying messages in different styles and languages.
Customer engagement was constant and, mostly, cheery. I started to interview a middle-aged male traveller who had requested a Valentine’s Day message from Farah with his P&G Prestige fragrance purchase. At first he was willing enough but then baulked at the sight of my tape recorder and turned decidedly grumpy. One suspects the gift may not have been for his wife.
It would have been wrong, of course, for me not to enter into the spirit of the occasion. And given that I had a dinner date that night…
Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, first let me explain the context of my choice of recipient. After the Trinity Challenge was presented at the Abu Dhabi Trinity Forum, Roberto Graziani had commented from the floor (rather bravely given the level of enthusiasm and commitment that had just been shown on stage by the participants) that this sort of initiative should actually be an everyday occurrence in travel retail and that the industry Trinity should aspire to more ambitious things. It led to a short, sharp discussion entirely in keeping with The Trinity Forum’s reputation for frank exchange.
However, I don’t think such initiatives as the Trinity Challenge are either as everyday or as easy as might have been suggested. Roberto’s right, they should be. But they’re not. And you have to start somewhere. Having seen with my own eyes the impact on customers and sales, it was time to put my money where my mouth was.
Knowing Roberto’s penchant for fine wine, I went and bought a bottle of excellent Feltham Road Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand at World Duty Free’s excellent Wine Collection shop-in-shop. Farah and Lily were only too happy to do the calligraphy and gift wrapping honours.
“What would you like as the message?” asked Farah.
“To Roberto, Happy Valentine’s Day,” I replied.
“Did you mean Roberta?” she replied, looking at me, I thought, a little quizzically.
“No, Roberto,” I said. “It’s a long story…”
And so, not only gift wrapped (below) but later also replete in a neon pink bag, accompanied by an exquisitely hand-written message, Roberto’s Valentine’s Day gift was procured and, after the short flight to Zürich, duly delivered.
The look of surprise, followed by the smile of delight on Roberto’s face made every minute of the Trinity Challenge, and every penny of the purchase, worthwhile.
As Farah’s message below, says, ‘Thank you Trinity’.