September 7, 2023

Important building block to brand success includes workforce buy-in

HTM head explains why employees embracing the brand is critical in a competitive marketplace

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – From Amazon and Band-Aid to Verizon and Ziploc, companies spend vast amounts of money, time and effort to promote their brands to customers. But how important is it for brand loyalty to carry over to the company’s workforce, especially in the service delivery sectors? Ceridwyn King, who was named head of White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University in July 2022, says getting internal stakeholders — employees — to champion the brand is key.

“Significant investment in your brand may be futile if consideration is not given to the thoughts and actions of the individuals responsible for bringing the brand to life,” said King, whose research focuses on brand management. “If your own workforce doesn’t understand or buy in to the company brand, why would the customers?”

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King said in a competitive business environment, such as hospitality, differentiation of services and the customer experience often depend on employees’ ability to deliver on the brand’s promise.

“Our industry is very labor-intensive,” she said. “How can we provide these exceptional experiences which require the human element and creativity?”

The answer, she said, is embracing the use of innovative technologies at hotels, restaurants and other entertainment venues. King said that’s an important lesson for hospitality and tourism management (HTM) classrooms.

“Part of our vision is to provide our students with all of the tools that help them be ‘experience engineers,’ that help them to amplify that human element and rid themselves of things that automation or technology can help them do,” King said.

King brings decades of industry expertise to Marriott Hall. The Australian native grew up along the country’s Gold Coast, a major tourist destination known for sand, sun and surf. She served as head of marketing for Conrad Jupiters Hotel and Casino, a 609-room entertainment venue in Australia that boasted 2,500 employees. King also founded her own marketing company.

After spending the early part of her career in industry, King then moved into academia.

In 2011, she joined Temple University in Philadelphia, where she served as a professor in the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management and as director of strategic industry engagement for the Fox School of Business Translational Research Center.

“I’ve been so fortunate to both work in industry and also have an opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives by helping them discover a passion for the business,” she said.

King was first attracted to Purdue by its highly vaunted and nationally ranked hospitality and tourism management program. But she saw something else during the interview process.

“It was the consistency in both the acknowledgment of needing to evolve and a willingness to evolve the program. I felt it along every step of the way of my interview process,” King said. “I really felt that played to my strengths.”

That evolution, said King, will rely on the adoption of innovation and cutting-edge technologies to improve the student experience and postgraduation career preparation. 

Marion Underwood, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, describes King as a strategic, forward-thinking leader poised to drive transformative change in HTM.

“She possesses a global understanding of higher education, extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry, and high-level awareness of marketing and communication strategies. Harnessing the synergies of HTM and its Division of Consumer Science and building partnerships throughout the university, Dr. King is an exemplary driver of innovation and continues to strengthen HTM’s global reputation,” Underwood said.

King said when she meets new Purdue colleagues from other disciplines, she discovers others who see the potential for crossover collaboration. As Purdue competes against other national programs in attracting the best HTM students, she said integration of innovative curriculum will help set Purdue apart.

“Purdue has such a wonderful reputation in things like industrial engineering, AI, data analytics, food science and nutrition, but no HTM programs are integrating them in an educational experience. Yet this is exactly how the industry is operating,” King said. “If anyone is going to own the word ‘innovation’ in a hospitality and tourism context, who else but Purdue?” 

King joined Purdue as the HTM industry was still recovering from the global pandemic. She said the impact of COVID-19 amplified the need for change in the hospitality industry, forcing it to adapt and evolve. Likewise, King says, academia needs to constantly reengineer itself.

King said Purdue HTM is known for training its students for operational excellence, but “what operational excellence is today is very different from what it was 20 years ago,” she added.

In August 2020, Purdue ushered in a new era in hospitality at Purdue with the reopening of the historic Union Club Hotel, following completion of a $35 million renovation. HTM students can earn practical experience at the on-campus venue. Likewise, King says she is constantly evaluating the HTM space at Marriott Hall, looking for opportunities for improvement and growth for students.

“If the industry wants exceptional talent, then there needs to be that investment. We want to elevate and inspire the future generation and provide them an environment that inspires creativity and innovation,” King said. “As we move forward, I’m looking to try and create more of this interdisciplinary experience. That really means that our students are at the forefront of being industry change-makers.”

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution with excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top 4 in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, with 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 12 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap, including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes, at https://www.purdue.edu/president/strategic-initiatives.

Writer/Media contact: Wes Mills, wemills@purdue.edu

Source: Ceridwyn King

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