A meeting with the Ducati talebans, visiting Minoli in Bologna

I’ve just gotten home from a wonderful day working on my book on organizational authenticity. I spend the last bit of the afternoon and the evening with Federico Minoli, former CEO of Ducati motorcycles since 1996. The last few hours going through books, pictures, drawings, videos and other memorabilia with Federico and his family in their home in the middle of Bologna.

Ducati is not only a very good example of an authentic company, struggling out of a financial crisis as well as an identity crisis. It is also a personal passion of mine. And even though I get more insights into the dynamics of the identity, the construction of the brand and the organizational culture than the average Ducatisti, I am more thrilled by the story, the passion and the motorcycles each time I work on this casestudy. It’s a story about holding on to your roots while constantly striving for world-class performance.

Federico Minoli is a story in his own right. Former P&G manager, manager for Benetton in the US and serial corporate turnaround doctor, he was appointed CEO to the legendary motorcycle factory in Bologna back in the days. Ducati was on the verge of bankrupsy, the factory was a mess. Three years later the stock had leaped from 30 cents to 2,90 dollars per share. When he first arrived at the factory everyone was throwing out history. Literally. Posters, drawings, motorcycle parts was dumped in the trash. But
what Minoli understood better than anyone else at the time was the value of the heritage of the company. And the balance of empowering employees to do experiments in order to reinvent the brand. Soon after there was established a corporate museum of the Ducati racing history, the production lines were renewed and production workers were cast as models for the company’s image campaign. When bankers asked for customer segmentation he sent a photographer around the world to take pictures of Ducatisti, the people that are not only riding Ducati motorcycles, but members of the Ducati tribe. The pictures did not only dismiss the idea of segmentation as well as undermining the imposed needs of the bankers, they became a beautiful book with portraits of the diverse group of people riding the worlds fastests motorcycles. Federico calls the most enthusiastic part of the fan-base ”Talebans” – there are not many of them but they will go through pain and agony for their mission which is all about the performance of their motorbike.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with Marco Montemaggi, one of the founders of the Ducati Museum, author on heritage marketing and vice president of the association of corporate museums in Italy. Greetings from the oldest university city of Europe from a Ducatisti.