PERSPECTIVES: THE HUMAN TOUCH
Mark Rae, Managing Director at Brandhouse
Last Autumn I had the opportunity to visit Oman with my family at half term. I have lived in Kuwait but never had the chance to go to Oman, a country that I have always wanted to visit since I had heard about it being a desert with arid mountains, a unique culture and very different to the other Arab states.
After a comfortable 7-hour night flight we arrived in Muscat and stood in the passport queue, half asleep but full of anticipation and excitement of being somewhere new.
The airport had a wonderfully calm air with the Omani immigration officials systemically scrutinising passports. As we neared the front of the queue I quietly asked my son if he had his passport ready. Having reached 16, I felt he should be accountable for his own destiny and was rather glad at long last not to be in charge of everything.
After much rummaging in pockets he shot me the look I didn’t want to see, and I knew in a flash he’d lost it. My thoughts went straight to spending our precious week of sun and new adventures stuck in the British Embassy trying to get in and out of the country. We then went through the embarrassment of all three of us searching in pockets and going through all the hand luggage whilst all the travellers in the airport smugly stepped around us. Nothing. We then started an interrogation of where it could be and grasped on to the slim chance it might be on the plane.
At this point I commandeered an official who quickly ushered us to a seating area to wait while he radioed the plane to check our seats. He said, “Don’t worry, all will be fine”. After much restless waiting, he returned and said triumphantly that it was in the airline seat pocket and that we would be reunited with it shortly. Relief and happiness enveloped us instantly.
You might think that’s the end of the story, but far from it. The Omani airport authorities saw this as an opportunity to turn our negative introduction to their country into something special. We were assigned an ambassador to take care of us from then on in. We were charmingly introduced. We and our cabin bags and were fast-tracked through all the queues to a remote passport control desk, and accompanied all the way to the baggage hall, hearing about all the fascinating places we should see. Our new friend then waited with us for the bags, loaded them all onto a trolley and then proceeded to find us a taxi and instruct the driver to take us safely to our hotel. All of this was done with an air of inner peace, respectful charm and patience (something we encountered frequently in the Omani people). This made us feel supremely welcome, erasing all the initial stress of our arrival forever. Well done Oman and Muscat airport.
Having thought about this simple story, it struck me that so much of our perceptions and experiences are influenced by the smaller gestures, going the extra mile, and by un-expected moments of delight that can be offered by people. The marketing and branding community spends so much time thinking about how brands can exploit our multi-channel digital world that the human touch is often ignored. We must seek to wire this back in where it is appropriate as it engages us emotionally and is immensely powerful in persuading us to come back and stay loyal.
5 interesting facts about Oman
- The Sultan of Oman – Sultan Qaboos Bin Said – is the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East. He is the person behind the modernisation of Oman. He took control of the Sultanate of Oman in 1970. He has yet to name his successor.
- Trade of fish, dates and some agricultural products along with tourism form a significant portion of the economy of Oman. Whereas its neighbours (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) are solely oil-dependent economies.
- Oman is also one of the oldest human-inhabited places on the planet. It is estimated that humans have been living in the country for at least 106,000 years and it is one of the safest places to live with virtually no crime.
- Oman has 2,000 km of coastline with spectacular beaches and a diverse landscape of deserts, mountains and oases, hence the expansion of Muscat airport to handle a capacity of 48m. There were no hotels there before 1970, now there is a stunning choice.
- Mountain Dew is the top selling beverage brand there. Pepsi is much more popular than Coca Cola.