Employee Branding Lessons
After a massively long and productive year, it was time to refresh… family time. As the kids are much older now, their first trip to Europe has been in the planning for more than a year: Italy for a month. It was wonderful to watch them delight at ice skating on the banks of the Tiber river in Rome, navigate the cobble stoned alleys, negotiate the purchase of bread each morning and learn about ancient cultures.
There is much of course that was universally the same as home. Interestingly, in a matter of seconds, we assessed an establishment by the greeting and demeanour of the staff.
On new years eve, we had planned to listen to the concert at the Colosseum and watch the fire works. But it began to bucket down. We ducked into a tavern (early by Roman standards – 7.00pm) and we were warmly welcomed by an enthusiastic waiter, ushering us in, out of the weather. He found us a cosy place in the corner, made sure that we had drinks and something to eat, as they rushed around preparing to open for the evening. A very well worn décor, (dilapidated really) but full of personality and fun. Rather than just dropping in we ended up staying for hours, chatting and laughing. The evening had been set by the way we were greeted.
What a contrast this was to the famous Ducati Caffe. My son loves all things with wheels and the fact that he could visit this concept store and have lunch there filled him with excitement. All slick and nice, but cold and lacking personality. The staff could not have cared, they were off hand to the point of rude, not interested in even giving us menu’s, let alone a drink or lunch. They seemed to be very haughty even with each other. The food was bad and took forever to come, we finally gave up on coffees and left. It was cold, void of personality and not what was expected of an iconic Italian brand.
It made me consider two things (can’t help myself even on holidays): The dangers of brand extensions, and also that people are the brand.
Ducati won’t miss us, we are travellers so unlikely to be regular customers, but I suspect we are not alone in our experience. One by one, the Ducati brand image is impacted, and over a period of time, the overall impression of the brand is changed. No amount of advertising will re-engage me in the brand promise. The promise was broken and once done is very difficult to repair. I’m not the target audience for the original product (motor bikes) so maybe it does not matter at all. But my son will remember that some how Ducati let him down…
A brand is a promise, held in the heart of our customers. It is a fragile relationship determined moment by moment by the people who represent it.