Airbnb disrupts the travel industry and marketing norms
Airbnb has 60 million travelers and 1 million hosts. During the first week of August 1 million people stayed in Airbnb’s in a single night; that equates to the tenth largest city in the U.S.
Those stats are impressive. Just as impressive is Airbnb’s lofty goal to be a SuperBrand alongside the likes of Starbucks, Apple and Nike. To do that, “we had to create our own playbook,” Jonathan Mildenhall, Airbnb’s chief marketing officer said today at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference. “We’ve studied those brands, they have an instantly recognizable mark, credibility and, increasingly, their communities do some of the work.”
The approach has five core tenants that marketing strategy is built on.
· Inspire conversation
· Deeds are more important than messages
· Mine human truths
· Global resonance & local relevance
· Measure everything
Surprisingly, Airbnb has a skimpy 1% spontaneous awareness across the globe and just 18% in the U.S.
“The first thing I have to do is make people aware of the Airbnb brand,” Mildenhall said. “The strategy is the power of human hospitality to open up the mindset of the world to open your mind and open your door for everyone to feel as if they truly belong anywhere.”
To do that Mildenhall wants to become the first community-driven super brand, largely by doing things that have never been done before.
On New Year’s Eve it launched a community-driven, social experiment. It donated $1 million to its host community: a $10 credit to each of 100,000 hosts. The hosts were asked to go into the world and do some random act of hospitality, take a picture and post it using the #OneLessStranger hashtag. The social and PR value was huge.
“The thing I was most proud of was how many in our community actually engaged,” he said. “The overall social media engagement was 98% and I’ve never seen that level of engagement before.
In another example, exactly 76 days after President Obama made the announcement that sanctions were easing in Cuba, Mildenhall said Airbnb was the first American company to set up there. It ran an ad in major media outlets like Newsweek and Time. The ad played off man’s first walk on the moon. It read, ”One Giant Leap for Man’s Kindness.” with images of the U.S. and Cuban flags.
The effect was swift. Hosts, everyday people and others took photos of the ads and posted them on social. Major media outlets picked up the story and blasted it out.
“The social content that the team created didn’t go viral, but the ads did,” he said. “Just goes to show you that you can’t predict everything. Our entry into Cuba became the biggest PR story in Airbnb’s history.”