How (Not) to Communicate Sustainability in Destination Marketing: Keep it Real

Destination marketers, here are some useful bits of advice by Xavier Font on how to communicate sustainability as part of your marketing. Xavier Font, Professor at Surrey University in the UK, worked extensively with VisitBritain, with whom he developed the booklet Keep it Real, offering tips and examples of how (not) to communicate sustainability initiatives.

Xavier, why should place branders and marketers pay attention to ‘Keep it Real’?

Because they are trying to achieve the same objective. Keep it Real provides the content, branders reading The Place Brand Observer have the tools. It’s a perfect match.

Which are the key points in terms of destination branding and communication?

This is far more complex than branding a company, because the USPs and personality of a destination depend on a multitude of players. So it is easier to write dull, repetitive messages for destinations.

Innovation is usually in my view very specific to some clever projects, but it rarely has an overarching strategy, because that takes a lot of time and effort.

What’s most needed to make tourism destinations a success from a marketing and branding perspective?

Break down your market into the different needs each sector has, and serve those segments well. Trying to have an umbrella first may seem a good idea, but innovation in practice comes from providing space for smaller communities to be creative.

What advice would you give to destination developers, managers and marketers that aim to communicate sustainability?

Avoid cliché slogans that suggest you are a green destination, because it is 1) not true, and 2) too dangerous.

Get your supply chains in order, and develop ways of experiencing the destination that deliver on that sense of place and personality.

Thanks, Xavier.

Get to know Professor Xavier Font in his Sustainability Leaders Project interview or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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