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Can we Brand with the UN? Part 3

May 19, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Can truly our small communities and even smaller businesses, many that don’t even have any employees, really get into this big game of branding?

There may be a way.

And this branding initiative is even something that our communities can become involved with.

A Branding World

We are not the first ones to talk about this and in fact we may not have to re-invent the wheel to create a “Mom & Pop Adirondack Quality Brand.” And, if our communities want to develop an “Adirondack Community Brand” there may be a way to do that as well.

Goodness, we may even be able to tie the 2 together.

One way to create a regional brand is through some type of “certification” program.

Doesn’t the term “certification” make you nervous? It does me: “Oh, boy another government regulated program.”

The good news is that there is a proliferation of certification models to choose from. Many that has nothing to do with government regulations. In fact, in doing this research, it appears many regions took strands from different certification programs and built their own. If they wished to become “officially certified by one of these programs, then they needed to meet certain thresholds.

Why Are We Doing This?

Let’s take a look at some of these certification programs. Again, remember our goal: We are trying to grab a slice of that growing brand pie (like an Olive Garden, Holiday Inn, or Dick’s Sporting Goods etc.) where consumers are choosing something that is familiar to them versus our small, independent businesses where it may not be as clear who we are - and are not.

The other goal may be to show them that there are enough of us to give them a feel there are “consistent” choices in our communities and they should view us a destination. Above all we are deliberating if together we wish to brand an “Adirondack experience.” This is not just about the tourism industry but retail, the arts, service and professional businesses.

To do so according to Jim Anhut of the International Hotels Group who recently gave a branding presentation at Paul Smiths College, it is all about a “consistent” message. He defined brand as “delivering a promise consistently.” Is there not a branding message behind Saranac Lake’s “6’er” program and Lake Placid’s re-enforcement of the “Olympic” image? Will not all kinds of businesses potentially benefit from some of these initiatives? Package, Package

We are doing much of this already; we may need only to “package” it, give it a name and some type of framework that we can market. Above all, to take our wonderful independent businesses and diverse communities, find common elements and brand it as a “consistent” product. If you hear or see the “Adirondack Quality” brand you will know what it stands for – and what it does not. “Consistent delivery delivers results” Anhut stated that begins with a “brand promise.” The bad news is there are so many branding related “certification” models that there is not one recognized prototype to choose from.

Let’s take a look at some regional branding models.

A Global Sustainable Tourism Brand?

It is a well-known fact that the Adirondack Park is part of a United Nations designated biosphere. For a region that talks about being “forever green” and all about sustainability, I often wondered if there was not an opportunity here for collaboration.

So I asked them.

I learned a lot - to the point where I suggested they come to the Adirondacks and which they have agreed. So, if we are interested in pursuing an “Adirondack Quality Brand” they may be one of the resources along with a host of others –some right at home.

But, I am getting ahead of myself.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) works with the United Nations.

They do, what I call, branding related certification programs for both businesses and communities. Part of what they have been working on is an internationally accepted set of standards for sustainable tourism practices. The goal is that if you go through this process you will be recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. How neat would that be? And to cap it off, we are already part of a UN biosphere!

The GSTC works with both groups of businesses and communities. They provide education and training, marketing assistance and help with certification if you wish to be part of this branding effort.


They have an initiative for businesses as well as communities. Their business program while geared towards “Hotels and Tour Operators,” is applicable to “the entire industry.” It is an effort to “come to a common understanding of sustainable tourism…” This program targets 4 “themes”:

• “effective sustainability planning” • “maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community” • “enhancing cultural heritage” • “reducing negative impacts to the environment.”

Needless to say, the GSTC has made a huge effort to pick through this maze of what exactly is sustainable tourism and is there a way to create a certified brand? To figure this out they created a “Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria” which was a “coalition of 27 organizations.” They reached out to “close to 80,000 tourism stakeholders, analyzed more than 4,500 criteria from more than 60 existing certification and other voluntary sets of criteria..."


What I guess I am saying here, is we may not have to re-invent the wheel. In talking with GSTC officials, I got the feeling it really is all about developing our own program using their guidelines. They state: “The criteria indicate what should be done, not how to do it..." Some of these criteria include:

• “Serve as basic guidelines for businesses of all sizes to become more sustainable… • Help certification and other voluntary programs ensure that their standards meet a broadly-accepted baseline; • Offer governmental, non-governmental, and private sector programs a starting point for developing sustainable tourism requirements; and • Serve as basic guidelines for education and training bodies, such as hotel schools and universities.”

Telling Our Story?

And when it comes to creating a brand for our individual businesses that others would recognize what we stand for here in the Adirondacks, here is what else they point to:

• “Help consumers identify sound sustainable tourism programs and businesses; • Serve as a common denominator for information media to recognize sustainable tourism providers;”

In other words, if we were to pursue this “Mom & Pop Adirondack Quality Brand” we could work together to help to tell the world about our unique brand.

There is a whole set of specific criteria about what this means that can serve as resource information for a potential branding program.

But the GSTC is by far not the only resource we have available to us. In fact, there are regional efforts going on right in our backyard.

We will talk about some of these “Adirondack” branding efforts next time.


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