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I’m not sure what the definition of stalking is but someone is watching my every move and it is disconcerting.

I have always been generous in sharing what I have learned – people have supported me and in return I support and mentor others.

In fact I have just returned from a Global Experience Alliance event – where the eight participating countries openly share ideas and help each other grow their respective businesses.  Many of these businesses are younger than RedBalloon – it is exciting to be part of their journey. We contribute to each other, taking a similar concept to different geographies. We inspire each other – but each of us very much has our own personality. We respect each other. I invented experiences with balloons… that is our thing in Australia and New Zealand. The others have their own innovative approaches.

But what if someone starts watching everything you do. A woman has stareted a company, which copies the RedBalloon name, delivers experience gifts with balloons, she calls herself the Chief Experience Officer, has a dog as head of security, she writes a blog, twitters, and has facebook which all look so like RedBalloon’s. Anything I do… or my marketing team do she is there, watching, waiting ready to plagiarize.

I cannot see any inspirational thought, innovation, or anything new.

So how should I respond? Do I stop writing, stop my public speaking, leave twitter alone? I have to say it is really disturbing to see such a blatant copy.

We are all inspired by people, I am inspired by all sorts of people: Verne Harnish, Seth Godin, Emma Isaacs and Scott Farquhar to name a few. People who run big businesses and small. But all have original thought, innovate, do things differently.

So I am seeking your input, how should I respond to this. The woman is located in Australia but operates her business in another country. She has never contacted me, or asked to be mentored by me. (I have, and do mentor many people as they grow their businesses). (I don’t mention the name because even bad publicity is publicity.)

Am I just being paranoid – should I just forget it. Why is it so very offensive to me when I am so openly sharing what I’m learning?

Let me know your thoughts.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Hey Naomi, that woman is my girlfriend and was stalking me for months so I gave her the idea to stalk you instead (just kidding).

    They say "Imitation is the best form of flattery" but in this case I would suggest copyright infringement is the best form of payout. Your company provides a unique service and although not being a lawyer, I would suggest you may want to seek some legal advice as to how best to shut down this girl’s operations. She is clearly copying your idea and has failed to very in her delivery of product or mode of operation (i.e. Maccas, KFC, Red Rooster, Hungry Jacks, all provide a similar service but each has a differentiation in their product.

    It may insight her to be more aggressive but it really just sounds to me like someone trying to make a quick buck off a great idea and you shoudl shut them down before your reputation is damaged by her ethics.

    Keep up the great blogs and loved your presentation a couple of weeks ago at the Robert Half breakfast (wow another product plug …lol).

    Have fun stay safe

    Ash

  2. Hi Naomi, this is a tough one, as our mothers always told us that in copying someone we are showing them the most sincere form of flattery.. however, this doesnt stop that hot frustrated feeling that we all get when someone takes our ideas and claims it as their own.

    Basically, Redballoondays is what it is due to your involvement. It is unique because you (Naomi) are unique and offer a personalised service that represents your core values. Although there may be others offering the same Experiences, these businesses would not offer the same level of customer service or manage supplier relationships as well as your business does.

    So rather than get wound up by this poser, or confronting them (which means their marketing has obviously worked) spend your time continueing to make your business the superior choice.. being the Prada amoungst all handbags if you will.

    Redballoondays is more than a business service now, it has become a ‘lovebite’ i.e. google; so no matter how many duplicate.. there is only one recognisable name for an Experience Service in Oz today.. and that was the first business who did it correctly. Red Balloon Days.

  3. Hey there Stalkee !

    Let me preface my comment with this "I know where you are coming from – we experience similar chellenges all the time in our business !"

    As an avid watcher of your continued amazing success story and all your social media outlets, I too have been a lucky recipient of the generous sharing of information that you offer.

    So, thank you from Team White Now (www.whitenow.com.au) !

    Most smart business people are sponges and filter, chew up and use whatever ideas are going to suit their ‘individual’ business.

    That is smart.

    What is not smart is to watch someone and then simply copy.

    As Brad Sugars famously says "to out earn me you have to outlearn me".

    So Naomi, you are the smart one here.

    You are always going to lead the pack as you know how to ‘Zig" when everyone else is ‘Zagging".

    As long as you only share your successes and not your strategy, then you will always be in front.

    It may not be the right time to say this as I am sure that you are feeling quite tender about the situation, but it is a compliment that you are being followed, BUT remember, you are being ‘FOLLOWED’ and that is it.

    THe winner is never the follower but the leader !

    This charleton is not even in your market, so she is no threat.

    You are always going to be known as the leader in this and that is that ! You yourself said "

    I cannot see any inspirational thought, innovation, or anything new." – the answer is in the comment that YOU have already made !

    A little about your title (CXO).

    It is certainly unique to your market, but is a title that has been used all around the globe across different industries.

    Once it is ‘commonplace’ it is time to change as long as it does not affect your business.

    You ask how you should respond ?

    Do not stop sharing, writing or being great as that aids in your success.

    Competitors keep trying to copy our business model and have so for years.

    As a small business, we are quick to change and do so all the time.

    We provide new services, change direction, so what no-one else does and reinvigorate ourselves – always keeping our core values which are innate in our business.

    We always stay ahead of the pack by NOT being followers but being leaders.

    This is always going to be your key as you do that so well.

    It’s funny that I feel like I am preaching to a person who I would give my left leg and inverted belly button to have coach us in our business, but it is because I see your success and have some idea about why you are a success, that I know that you are too smart to continue to use your emotional head and remember to continue to use your

    business head !

    Have a look around you – see all those great people that you have ? With the values that the other charleton has, do you EVER think she could attract such great people ?

    NEVER !

    Do you know what else is amazing about this Bolg post and comment, be sure that she will be reading it and taking notes.

    I dare say though that her values will mean that she reads it but takes nothing from it !

    PERFECT.

    I also found that the moment I stopped watching what our ‘followers’ were copying, the more free our brains became to create even more amazing things.

    Try not watching her as you are just looking backwards and using too much energy that you should not be wasting on this but using to better your life !

    Naomi, keep on being FANTASTIC and supporting your team to be FANTASTIC.

    I hope this comment from a passionate, small business owner helpd you in one way or another !

    All the best

    Jenny White Leader of Service and Fun White Now ! http://www.whitenow.com.au

  4. Naomi, copying is the best form of flattery, but this situation has gone beyond the pale.

    I would speak with a lawyer and find out what your legal position is in a situation like this. If this woman is based in Australia, I would call a meeting with her. Bring it out into the open and hold her accountable for the blatant plagiarization of your ideas. The concept of gifting experiences has become more popular (you started the trend!!), however the "Red Balloon" touch is encroaching on your corporate identity and that must be stopped.

    On a more conceptual plane, this woman’s operation will run out of steam as her ideas are not fresh and original, while your company will continue to evolve. Hold firm and continue to do what you do with integrity and creativity. All the best, and remember that this too will pass.

    Kind Regards,
    Victoria Ugarte

  5. Hi

    Firstly I would be flattered, take it as a compliment, then I would call her and suggest that although you are very flattered that she sees you as such a role model that perhaps she should invest in creating something that is uniquely hers….

    BTW love your brand, image and blog…..

  6. Hi Naomi,

    I hate reading stuff like your blog below, it really riles me up!

    You are an inspiration, you are an amazing person and I would be really sad if you stopped sharing because of one measly copy cat who doesn’t have their own idea’s!  I know I get alot from your blogs and really appreciate the collective learning mindset.

    I have had people blatantly copy our programs – right down to terms and conditions, the same program names and leaving our trademarks on their seminar handouts!  What a cheek! I used to get upset and for a while we pulled back and stopped sharing as much as we had, in the end our customers and loyal followers disrespected the other parties for copying, they are no longer around – but we are.  I have a whole lot of grrrr on this!

    Have fun in Barcelona and from me anyways – stand strong – you’re the real deal!

  7. Hey Naomi,

    Gee, what a piss-ant!!!

    Anyway, you have received great advice already but I suggest that you should think of this in two categories:

    1. The impact to your business.

    If you think it will have a detremental impact then as the head of the business you have an obligation to take action or at least investigate options.

    This could be legal, or business tactics but as with any potential threat, it needs a cool headed assessment and you should involve your team.

    2. The impact to you as a person.

    If you are trully spooked by the behaviour and think there is a personal issue going on here then you should deal with that separately and with different goals and approaches in mind.

    Passionate etrepreneurs like yourself can find it difficult to separate the business from the person, but I think you will find the best response is in doing exactly that.

    Of course you could always send a RedBalloon gift of a cream pie in the face…

    Good luck!!!

  8. Hi Naomi

    You have a great reputation and you are well known, and people trust you and your business therefore

    I would say keep making a noise about it. Continue to use the viral benefits of social networking, blogging etc. Make a huge noise about the fact you are being copied. I know you write for a few online publications, include this in your articles or write one up on being copied. Let Australia know that you are being copied.

    Don’t keep quiet about it. Public humiliation is very effective.

    This is a bit off topic but tha analogy will be useful. Once a few years ago a customer owed me a sizable sum of money. After exhausting all avenues I employed the services of a debt collector and a lawyer, it was a very drawn out process. I also published a newsletter to all my clients in the industry I used to work in. As I was frustrated and against legal advice

    I published the fact that I had not been paid by this client and that the industry should be wary. It was wonderful, all his suppliers stopped supplying him and switched him to COD only. I also eventually got paid.

    I’ll even invite you to publish an article on our website about the topic, you have my contact details if you’d like to take up the opportunity.

    Regards

    Mark

  9. Hi Naomi

    When I was in primary school a little girl took my drawing home to her mum to pass off as her own … she did this a few times, and it was quite sad when I think back about it. (and not just because I was a pretty ordinary drawer!)She was so keen to please her mother ..anyway, after a while she gave up trying to pass off my work as hers and no doubt went on to copy someone else – perhaps she is your stalker?!

    I applaud you for putting yourself out there and sharing your ideas with the world. As a new business owner (www.designerlives.com.au) I too worry that someone will ‘steal’ my ideas or worse do something better with them!

    But I suppose there is comfort in the fact that no one else can get inside your head and no one else can know what you will do next and as copiers of originals, they can never excel as they don’t know what to do next anyway.

    More power to you for being an inspiration to so many. I can’t add much more to the terrific above comments as they covered it all off so well – just keep on zagging!

  10. Hi Naomi,

    When I read the headline, I thought you were referring to stalkers such as myself, who are actually just interested in hearing your thoughts so follow your blogs from time to time!

    In answer to your question:

    try this

    My friend solved a similar problem in one 30 cent telephone call.

    After noticing her personalised candle and wedding invitations were being copied and paraded on her competitor’s website, she put an end to the copying by making direct contact with the business owner.

    Business owner denied it, said she couldn’t prove it etc…but funnily enough, removed all the copied items the next day.

    She was sufficiently scared by the threat of legal action, as most people would be.

    Naomi, perhaps get your lawyers to draft a Letter of Demand.

    I would be surprised if the stalking continued after this.

    All the best – look forward to hearing the outcome of this.

    Regards Shiraz.

  11. Isn’t the idea for Red Balloon also based on another company – Red Letter Days? from the UK?

  12. Hmm, an interesting dilemma. In some ways this is a huge compliment† annoying but a compliment! 🙂

    Personally – if she is using your brand then obviously that’s copyright infringement and you will have some legal recourse no doubt. In some ways its very flattering however your customers come to you because of your reputation – having someone else do this in an underhand way is not your style. I guess I might try meet with her and challenge her approach. Failing that – a legal letter – which seems a shame, and against your sharing nature!

  13. Hi Naomi,

    You have a legal recourse. This is called passing off and it is a brand and copyright infringement.

    A letter from an IP solicitor should help.

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