Client: Wella Professionals
Agency: Olive 360, DMC Zahara Tours
Date: 19-23 April 2009
Venue: Grand Hyatt Muscat, Desert Nights Camp, Al Bustan Palace Muscat
THE BRIEF: Wella Professionals wanted to incentivise Sassoon salon and academy team members to boost sales of its hair products and to build a strong connection between the brands. It regularly runs incentives for Sassoon team members, and Wella Professionals national account manager Mark Giannandrea needed a destination with 'luxury' appeal that would be viewed as the trip of a lifetime by the winners, who were judged over a three-month period. "I wanted it to be somewhere none of the Sassoon team members would have been to in order to inspire them that little bit more," he says.
There also needed to be a team-building element. Agency Olive 360 successfully pitched Oman for the event, which was the second of three incentive trips for Sassoon employees in 2009.
CHALLENGES: Wella Professionals wanted to run the incentive on a responsible budget, while still rewarding the winners with a five-star experience, says Olive 360 account manager Vicky Nutt.
The destination also posed logistical challenges. The heat was intense - 30degC - which might be uncomfortable for some delegates. Meanwhile, Oman's cultural and legislative differences - such as public drinking bans, and wearing conservative clothing - with the UK are immense. This meant delegates needed to be made fully aware of the country's customs, laws and traditions to avoid causing any offence.
A drinking licence had to be obtained for one leg of the trip. However, the Omani Government would not give any guarantees that the group would be issued with one.
Olive 360's creativity was put the to the test as it also had to come up with an innovative team-building exercise that tied in with the Omani way of life.
SOLUTION: To provide a first-class experience on a responsible budget, Olive 360 used its relationship with BSI to negotiate the best possible rates on venues and hotels. The agency was also able to offer activities that seemed luxurious and expensive, but in fact offered good value. These included things such as snorkelling, and, through using a creative approach and the local environment, costs were kept down.
Air-conditioned buses and venues were used to beat the heat and delegates were issued with goody-bags containing sun tan lotion and small fans. The time spent outdoors was also kept to a minimum.
Delegates were made well aware of the cultural differences between Oman and the UK. The event joining instructions contained information about the customs, traditions and laws in Oman and the consequences for breaking them. It also made clear that while some types of behaviour were acceptable in the UK, they would not be acceptable in the desert state. The client and agency made a point of reiterating this information to the group at the start of the incentive.
Olive 360 put DMC Zahara Tours in charge of obtaining the drinking licence as the firm had local knowledge and contacts. The DMC had to apply a long time in advance of the trip and, just a few days before the group was due to arrive, the government said it was not going to issue the licence. But, at the last minute, officials relented and said they would issue one after all.
The team-building session was creatively integrated with the local culture through the selection of an Omani marketplace for its setting.
EXECUTION: Joining packs containing destination and cultural information, a passport wallet and itinerary were sent to the delegates in advance of the event.
The group flew with Oman Air from Heathrow on the Sunday evening and arrived in Muscat early on Monday morning. A special pass enabled the group to speed up its progress through customs at the airport. Delegates were then transported by minibus to the Grand Hyatt Muscat, where they spent the morning relaxing by the swimming pool.
After lunch at Al Bustan Palace Muscat, the group moved on to the team-building exercise - a souq rally. They went to Muscat's town centre and split into two teams. Each team was given an envelope with Omani money and a shopping list written in Arabic script and told they had 20 minutes to get the best deals from the local vendors on the items they needed to buy. The winners were given a prize, and then all the delegates were given free time to shop. The day ended with dinner at Bait Al Bahr restaurant at Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort.
The following morning, the group boarded a speedboat for a dolphin-watching and snorkelling session, followed by lunch and cocktails back on land at Left Bank. A shopping stop-off at a mall in Muscat preceded free time at the hotel Grand Hyatt Muscat, where the group later dined and were treated to a traditional belly-dancing performance.
After an early wake-up call, the group was transported by a convoy of 4x4 vehicles into the desert, via a visit to Muscat's Grand Mosque, before driving on to the Desert Nights Camp, which had been branded with a Sassoon banner. The group then spent the afternoon quad-biking, camel-riding and dune-bashing followed by a sunset stop among the sand dunes. Back at the camp, delegates dressed in Omani costumes for dinner, during which they were entertained by local musicians and a henna artist, who adorned delegates with traditional tattoos.
The following morning, the group left the camp and were driven to the airport, where they departed Muscat for the return flight at 1.30pm.
VERDICT: Wella Professionals' Mark Giannandrea says the event was among the best incentives he had hosted. "The venues were spot-on, the Hyatt was beautiful, and all the places that we visited were brilliant and different to anywhere anyone had been before," he says.
The incentive winners boosted sales beyond their targeted figures: "And in this economic climate, that's a phenomenal performance," he adds.