The definition of Soft Power has evolved over time. Originally coined by Joseph Nye in the late 1980s, the term “soft power” was focused on the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. Nye’s message was that U.S. security hinged as much on winning hearts and minds as it did on winning wars.
The concept has evolved to now define how companies, leaders and influencers can win support and audiences though ideas, imagary, film and brand identity. It is also about how leaders can influence through behaviours and actions.
So here lies the question – can hospitality be an industry which can build a stronger image through how it behaves and acts as a central force in society? Is this even possible?
A number of countries and industries are credited for having built strong soft power in recent years. Italy has achieved this very effectively by developing its image and attractiveness through its culture, history, food, wine, people, countryside and culture. Japan is another which has built soft power through its culture and food. The UK has long had a very strong Soft Power as so many tourists flock to the country annually. The Jubilee weekend highlighted the value and influence of soft power very clearly.
Many industries and companies use both hard and soft power to build market share. The film industry most obviously. Hard power is built via its innovation in products and customer service, in the control it has over its distribution system and in the leverage that the company has with retailers and resellers. Soft power is a company’s ability to create demand, to ensure consumers people to want to use the product or service, to learn more, and, importantly, be willing to pay the price asked.
Can Hospitality achieve this? Hasn’t it managed to do this over the last few years alone? The demand for hospitality in all its forms is as strong today as it ever has been.
The industry has long debated the need to create stronger messaging to influence external audiences but maybe it has all the power it needs in its own hands and through its own behaviours? Hospitality is coming out of the pandemic as well as ever could have been expected. The consumer is still travelling into London to enjoy great experiences. The question is can the industry use this demand for its services to be more effective in building its image?
It is well documented that the consumer is seeking ever stronger experiences. The demand for luxury hospitality is coming back strongly. The demand for lodging is growing. The demand for restaurants and bars is strong. Many operations are seeking to develop destination food & beverage at the heart of their strategies.
The opportunity exists. The challenge is how to use this power? There will be many branding and advertising experts who would enjoy working with the industry to help ensure that the industry is able to use its natural influence.