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Employee Branding Lessons

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.

Reader Interactions


  1. Dear Naomi

    In October 2008 my wife and I had our 60th birthday. My sister paid your company for a scenic seaplane flight experience. In February last year we went to Canada skiing and I was severely injured in a fall. As a result I never took up the voucher.

    Now I am informed that your vouchers expire worthless. This is not mentioned on the voucher.

    I believe this conduct by your company amounts to a criminal offence of obtaining money by deception. You have been paid a substantial sum of money (nearly =$500) to provide an experience and provided nothing in return.

    This is theft and I intend to take the matter further.

    Yours sincerely
    Bill Northcott

  2. Thanks for contacting me.

    These weeks have given me time to experience your frustration first hand. I was to fly to Queensland on Jetstar and my plans were forced to change suddenly – I had bought discount tickets and agreed to the terms and conditions – Jetstar simply said ‘you knew when you purchased.’ UGH (this is the same will all airlines)

    I had purchased tickets to the moonlight cinema for my sons birthday – and the night of the show the heavens opened – they have a ‘no refund’ policy which I agreed to when I purchased on line. UGH

    I was given a wonderful box of Luke and May biscuits for Christmas last year and was saving them for a special occasion – UGH they are now 3 months passed the use by date and I have had to throw them out. (It was up to me to eat them in time)

    There is no doubt that all of us find waste frustrating, pointless and costly – however many and varied businesses have products and services that expire. They have terms and conditions of sale and they supply them on this basis. I have a policy that I get on and use vouchers as soon as I get them so I don’t get caught out.

    RedBalloon makes its expiry dates as large as possible because we want people to take the experience as soon as possible. We provide a no charge exchange service online so that should someone not be able to take the experience for any reason (such as ill health) – they can swap it to an experience that get’s delivered to them.

    Thank you for letting me know your frustration, but we too like all other businesses uphold our terms and conditions.

    PS your voucher had the expiry listed on it of March 2009 which is now 12 months passed – it is clearly stated on the voucher


  3. Naomi,

    thanks for sharing this. It paints a clear picture of the importance for all business owners to be aware that their people represent their brand. I follow your blog and it’s such a refreshing experience!



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