MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN NEWSLETTERS
JUNE 2015

 

 

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The Diners Club Experience

By Shalane van Rensburg

 

Over the past 20 years, the card industry has relied on the same tactics and incentives to drive consumers, competing on two basic premises: rewards and consumption. This race to differentiate based on rewards has only led to greater homogenisation.

 

A global brand with a proud heritage – it all began in 1949 when businessman Frank McNamara arranged a dinner with guests at Major’s Cabin Grill restaurant. Once dinner was over, Frank realised he had left his wallet in his other suit. Fortunately, the restaurant 

owner knew him and let him leave his business card as an IOU. He resolved never to face this embarrassment again.

 

In February 1950, Frank McNamara and his partner Ralph Schneider returned to Major’s Cabin Grill. When the bill came, Frank presented a small cardboard card, a Diners Club Card, and signed for the meal. In the card industry, this event is known as the First Supper, and, in 1955, the Diners Club Card became the first charge card accepted by airlines.

 

Since then, Diners Club International has grown into a highly respected global brand with a proud heritage as the world’s first charge card. The Diners Club Card is issued in more than 200 countries and is accepted by 14-million establishments around the world and in South Africa.

 

Innovation at Its Best

Gugu Zikhali, Head of Marketing at Diners Club divulges that Diners has exciting projects planned in the digital environment. Among these is an online portal, which will facilitate meaningful conversation amongst members as a forum in which to share information, ideas and anecdotes and cultivate their passions for fine living. A mobile application is also on the cards for members to navigate online and offline. 

 

Diners Club is in its second phase of a global relaunch that has been a challenging and exciting journey, according to Gugu. Much of this exercise has focused on making its local benefits and sponsorships more meaningful for members and merchants alike.

 

The online portal will host Diners Club’s most prominent sponsorships, the Winelist Awards and the Winemaker of the Year Awards. According to Gugu, this reflects a strategic shift in Diners Club’s approach to bringing members and merchants closer together in a mutually beneficial manner. It not only facilitates peer-to-peer networking, but also brings events within easy reach of the members. “It reflects a real change in the way that we communicate with our members about the things they enjoy. It’s all about the forward-looking, forward-thinking conversations of tomorrow,” explains Gugu. From restaurant recommendations to continuing education on travel and entertainment, it’s about opening up a unique, more imaginative and interactive view to citizens within the Diners Club world. It’s where it will curate the elements its members will enjoy and share in the spirit of arriving.

 

Gugu shares how she finds the most challenging aspect of her position to be the seamless implementation of the brand vision throughout the organisation. “Integrating the brand essence into every department and into every member touch point is difficult. Fortunately, I am part of a management team of true professionals who believe in and live the brand vision.”

 

Staying Competitive

Diners Club caters to a select clientele, but, beyond that, it is a community of like-minded people who share a more progressive and inspiring view of wealth. It allows ownership of all sorts of interesting and relevant spaces, through which Diners Club can take on different forms and mediums for its members around the globe. This core principle is fundamental to everybody at Diners Club and helps to drive the purpose of the brand. Whether it is peer-to-peer networking, sponsored events or more subtle means of sharing, the spaces reached are driven by one purposeful vision. Through this approach, it finds that the competitive inspiration actually comes from its members.

 

“We are a Club, not a company, and, as such, our members belong to something much stronger than a transactional mechanism,” says Gugu. Therefore, it calls upon its superior service to create more than a transactional relationship with members. “Our purpose and goal is to be a beacon for like-minded individuals who pride themselves on seeing beyond the transactional value of money and aspire to a more considered view of wealth.”

 

Winemaker of the Year Awards Competition

In the course of its proud 32-year history the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award have become the benchmark for excellence in the South African wine industry. These awards have become highly coveted by the wine industry and have recognised and produced some of the country’s top vintners and wines this country has to offer. Considered by most as one of the top awards one can receive in this industry, they have played a significant role in uplifting the standards of wine in South Africa.

 

“Following the success of the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Awards, in 2001 we launched The Diners Club Young Winemakers of the Year Award,” says Gugu. These were aimed at motivating new entries to the viticulture field and reward those already there for their ambition and hard work. This recognition often plays an integral part in the escalation of a winemaker’s career.

 

“Following the success of the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Awards, in 2001 we launched The Diners Club Young Winemakers of the Year Award,” says Gugu. These were aimed at motivating new entries to the viticulture field and reward those already there for their ambition and hard work. This recognition often plays an integral part in the escalation of a winemaker’s career.

 

Peter Goffe-Wood, Master Chef South Africa judge is one of the judges in this year’s Diners Club Winelist Awards alongside Marilyn Cooper, who heads the Cape Wine Academy, sommelier Miguel Chan, JP Rossouw, author of the respected dining guide Rossouw’s Restaurants, Nikki Dumas, restaurant wine-list specialist, as well as leading wine critics and judges Fiona McDonald and Christine Rudman.

 

Restaurants, hotels and guesthouses countrywide are invited to submit their wine lists for the competition, with each wine list being judged on the basis of selection, balance, presentation, and the extent to which it complements the menu.

 

Diners Club members really make the club stand out from the rest because they tend to share a confident state of mind that relishes in the journey and possibilities of their wealth. Gugu expresses how its members are the kind of people who could easily sit back and say, “I have made it”, but choose not to. “While some people want to show the world they’ve arrived, our members quietly share the art of arriving.”

 

Diners Club understands, honours and celebrates these values, and the experience and sacrifice it takes to achieve success. “We believe in the intersection between money and meaning. Without the human touch, a transaction will never become an interaction,” are the wise, final words from Gugu.

 

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