In the fast-paced landscape of big change, 2023 highlights the significance of brands as real growth assets and the powerful engine behind successful companies. Brand leaders have the ability to deploy their brand to meet emerging customer needs effectively. In this Decade of Possibility, brands are expected to play a key role in creating a more equitable society by serving various stakeholders – including shareholders, employees, communities, consumers and in my industry’s case – guests.

For hotels and tourism, brand resilience is essential in any tough period, and we are one industry that has continually proved how resilient and creative we can be, hospitality professionals are often good at pivoting and adapting but they also have the power to be a strong brand leader because they are creating experiences.

Successful brands go beyond offering exceptional products and services; they also build strong and emotionally meaningful relationships with their customers. Brands that thrive into the future will need to balance exceptional experiences with real integrity and authenticity, to drive sustainable revenue growth and profit.

The evolving role of brands also includes environmental, societal, and governance (ESG) data, reflecting the increasing importance of environmental and social responsibility. As societal change becomes a core function of companies, brands are seen as the most powerful narratives and can have a huge influence in this space. Brands that take sides on critical debates, advocate for social causes, and demonstrate unwavering integrity tend to hold the most significant value and influence.

To succeed and connect with customers at a deeper level, brands must do more than connect on functional, emotional, and moral expectations, they must be seen to exceed them. Striking a balance between power and responsibility, brands need to provide great experience and service combined with consistently showing leadership, mitigate risks, and sustaining growth.

For hotels, achieving brand leadership involves understanding and addressing guests’ current and future needs, exploring loyalty programs and embracing digital advancements can all enhance the guest experience. Hotels must continually look at what the market and the competition is doing, and identify their own position with innovative ways to serve guests better and in a way that guests truly want.

As brands now have both power and responsibility, business leaders need to rethink their brands as “influential acts of leadership”. Integrity, ethics, and a positive impact on society significantly influence customer choice across all sectors and stages of the customer journey. Striking a balance between ethical decision-making and brand trust can drive both stakeholder value and brand reputation.

To be successful and grow in 2023/4, brands should adopt some of these key pointers:

  1. Direction: Set a clear vision that aligns the entire organisation towards a common ambition and always put your guest at the centre of this.
  2. Agility: Move swiftly, introducing new products and services, and pivot when needed to address changing guest needs.
  3. Participation: Engage customers in the brand’s journey, making them a part of the movement and creating an engaging brand world.

An example of successful brand growth is Airbnb, which made it into the Interbrand Best Global Brands 2022 for the first time, this was due to its strategic shift towards brand-driven marketing. By focusing on creating a unique offering and providing excellent personalised services, Airbnb has become both a noun and a verb globally, and I love how this demonstrates the power of a strong brand in the hospitality industry.

In comparison, top hotel brands that don’t feature in the top 100 may miss out on the opportunities that strong brands bring. A strong brand not only influences customer choice and loyalty but also attracts and retains talent and reduces costs.

The role of brand for the future, particularly in hotels and tourism, is critical in navigating the ever-changing landscape. Brands must prioritise exceptional experiences, moral decision-making, and a positive societal impact to succeed and grow in the Decade of Possibility. By demonstrating leadership, agility, and meaningful engagement with guests, clients, partners, your team and key stakeholders, brands can become powerful and influential leaders or even trend setters in their respective industries.