What does it mean to be a resilient brand and what is it that makes us realize one when we see it? Increased collective awareness and visibility of climate and social issues have put the hospitality and tourism industry under the microscope. It is becoming progressively evident that sustainable development and strategic communication are key to maintaining success during changing times; so how do brands achieve resiliency and overcome the hurdles of communicating sustainability?
According to David Keen, Founder and CEO of QUO Global, a brand strategy and integrated communications agency, “what will project resilience in the future are brands with purpose; brands that actually stand for something.” It’s no surprise that the demand for socially responsible products and services are becoming the new norm; building a strong brand is about commitment to purpose. When a historic global crisis emerges and the world is flipped on its head, it is essential brands stay true to who they are and the purpose they set out, “consistency and resiliency must come hand in hand.” – David Keen, Founder, and CEO of QUO Global. Looking forward, sustainability will be more than the triple bottom line; sustainability will be rooted in the teams that bring your brand to life. “Sustainability in the future is an emotional sustainability… sustainability is about engagement, nurturing, nourishment of the people that work within your brand… the greatest love we need to create within our brands is for our people.” – David Keen, Founder, and CEO of QUO.
Is it too green? Is it not green enough?
Businesses ordinarily communicate their sustainability practices to create a positive brand image however, continued skepticism and lack of trust persist as a result of “greenwashing” and “greenwashing” tactics. The overplaying or underplaying of a business’ practices are not only used within the context of environmental sustainability, it is also prevalent within organizational and social sustainability. Without truthful communication of purpose and action, identifying bandwagoners from the real deal is time-consuming in a world that thrives on convenience. What’s oftentimes overlooked in communicating sustainability is forming emotion and experience around the type of people that are looking for a brand. Typology can be used to pin down who you want to be and who you want to communicate that to. When practiced effectively, brands can tell the story of their values; what businesses think their responsibilities are; public expectations they believe are placed on them; and more importantly, through communication, brands can play a role in creating such values.
Various studies of hotel units have verified that a positive relationship exists between sustainability communication and several stages of clients’ decision-making processes, namely, the pre-purchase stage and purchase intentions. Other studies have also confirmed the impact of effective sustainability communications on repeat purchase intentions, positive word of mouth, willingness to pay, and image improvement. Most importantly, normalizing sustainability practices remove human agency and diffuses responsibility ultimately influencing positive behavior and defining organizational identity.
This is perhaps the most important time ever to be thinking about how your brand communicates its value; and perhaps even to truly understand and define what your brand value is. Those who act purposively to execute and live these values are the resilient ones who will come out ahead.
To learn more about this topic, listen to our full discussion with QUO founder and CEO, David Keen. Behind the Kerten podcast Ep. 1: Resilient Brands and Communicating Sustainability.
Font, X., Elgammal, I., & Lamond, I. (2017). Greenhushing: the deliberate under communicating of sustainability practices by tourism businesses. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 25(7), 1007-1023.
Santos, M. C., Veiga, C., Águas, P., & Santos, J. A. C. (2019). Sustainability communication in hospitality in peripheral tourist destinations. Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes.
Shen, L., Qian, J., & Chen, S. C. (2020). Effective Communication Strategies of Sustainable Hospitality: A Qualitative Exploration. Sustainability, 12(17), 6920.