The travel industry’s biggest buzzword – “values” – is misunderstood.

May 25, 2022  |  Victoria Simmons

Travel & Tourism

In 2021, Destinations International unveiled its Futures Study, the guidelines which at least to some extent, have become a Bible for progressive DMOs who are not just looking at their business today but are getting curious and starting to solve the problems of tomorrow.

One of the three key pillars of the document was the idea of “Values-based Marketing,” touting the perspective that “By identifying core values, destinations can review their underlying beliefs about where they will operate from and create priorities that move forward with intention.”

Which we 100% agreed with and celebrated.


Not to overly toot our own horn or anything, but BVK pioneered “Value-based Positioning” years before DI included it in their Futures Study. And while some may feel it’s a too-subtle nuance, we view a pretty significant difference between “Values-based Marketing” and “Value-based Positioning,” a distinction that goes well beyond whether you have an “s” at the end of the word “Value” or not.

Value-Based Positioning vs. Values-Based Marketing

The wave of presentations making their way through the tourism industry conference circuit erroneously reduce values-based marketing to nothing more than tailoring content to the current social values and trends that are top-of-mind in culture such as sustainability or equality. Rather than being rooted in the brand’s identity, this assumption is reactionary and overly simplistic making it more likely to come across to travelers as inauthentic. True value-based positioning goes deeper to engrain a core human value as the foundation of a destination’s brand strategy. It is not reactionary messaging that weighs in on the most recent cultural hot button issue but is part of the brand’s long-term identity. The business case for brand values is not about altruism or corporate social responsibility. It’s about expressing an organization’s fundamental reason for being and powering its growth. Value-based positioning becomes the soul of the destination brand and ultimately enables a data-driven and human-centered approach to bridging strategic insights, connection planning, breakthrough creative, and holistic measurement to drive stronger results.

Values Defined

“Values are like fingerprints, nobody’s are the same but you leave them all over everything you do.” – Elvis Presley

In its social-psychological meaning, there are over 500 core human values that represent abstract, desirable end states that people strive for or aim to uphold, such as freedom, loyalty, or tradition. They serve as guiding principles in people’s lives. Values transcend specific actions and situations. They are goals and beliefs tied inextricably to emotion. The abstract nature of values distinguishes them from concepts like norms and attitudes, which usually refer to specific actions, objects, or situations. Values guide the selection or evaluation of actions, policies, people, and events. That is, values serve as standards or criteria, and they absolutely play a role in how and where consumers spend their vacation dollars.

Values In Action

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action and reason leads to conclusions.”​ – Neurologist Donald Kaine

To obtain great business results, a brand must stand for something compelling. Today’s most successful business leaders are leveraging values to set the pace in their categories and leave their competition far behind. We make our choices based on emotion – how something makes us feel, then very quickly justify those choices with all the rational features and benefits. The book “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at The World’s Largest Companies,” written by Jim Stengel, ex-CMO of Proctor & Gamble demonstrates how brands that position on ideals, like values, out-perform the S&P 500 by nearly 400%. It’s not just about building meaningful connections, it’s about creating a catalyst for powerful growth.

How did Nike outpace Reebok? How did Harley create something more akin to religion than a ride? They organized their entire brand around a core human value that their audiences craved and found in that brand. When a brand anchors its identity in a core human value it builds a solid pathway for powerful communications and experiences. Nike—Empowerment. Harley Davidson—Freedom. Steve Jobs once said, “Get closer to your customers than ever. So close that you can tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”

Drawing inspiration from Jim’s work, BVK’s research-intensive approach includes a deep dive into the brand legacy, industry, current culture, and audience to unearth a core human value that connects deeply with the brand’s DNA and reason for being and is also a driver for audience development. Born out of this strategic positioning we carry that value across both marketing communications and operations to create a holistic brand experience. The result is a brand that’s both amazingly simple and focused but also compelling, enduring, relevant, evocative, and successful.

A true values-based strategy:

Identifying Resources

Harnessing the competitive advantage that value-based positioning provides requires shifting focus from what you sell to leveraging why you truly matter to travelers. For destination leaders who want to get this right, BVK offers the rigor and expertise that our competitors are only now beginning to think about.

It’s been said that there’s no positioning without sacrifice. It’s also true that there’s no differentiation without sacrifice. It’s a difficult realization, knowing you can’t be everything to everybody. But it’s also liberating because it frees you – your destination – up to be what you were meant to be. Fully. Wholly. Completely.

And you can’t get there with a set of multiple values that are meaningful today but meaningless tomorrow, or with so many different values that they don’t clarify who you are but instead muddy it.

Value-based positioning is the answer. It uncovers your true essence. It reveals your true center. It shows off the one thing you feel, you believe, you are more than anything else in the world.

And that you are more than anywhere else in the world.

Reach out to start a conversation with one of our brand consultants, whose backgrounds in research, neuroscience, and consumer behavior make them great authorities and passionate advocates for the power of driving business growth through value-based positioning.


is Senior VP, Travel at BVK

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