Airbnb Uses Community Storytelling to Build a Global Brand
Written by Matt Clement
Sometimes, the best brand stories don’t come from brands at all. The best stories sometimes come from the passionate community who support the brand. For Airbnb, nothing could be truer.
In the lodging industry, guests keep your business alive. Airbnb, however, isn’t a hotel or resort chain – they are a digital platform designed to facilitate bookings between guests and lodging hosts. Simply put, Airbnb connects people. Let’s take a closer look at how Airbnb tells their community’s stories to build their brand.
In 2013, Airbnb decided they needed to change their brand story, and so they went soul-searching. After around a year of pondering Airbnb’s mission and listening to customers, CEO Brian Chesky unveiled the brand’s new philosophy. “Airbnb is different from most brands,” Chesky wrote in the company’s magazine. “We’re a community of individuals, and yet there’s a consistency holding us together through the values we share.” These shared values would inspire Airbnb’s new company mantra: belong anywhere.
“For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home,” Chesky continued. “You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere.”
To support this new mantra, Airbnb knew they had to stop telling the story of a tech company, and start telling the story of a hospitality company – a hospitality company that encourages guests to, as the company themselves describe, travel “through the eyes of a local.”
In November 2016, Airbnb’s focus on authentic, eyes of a local, travel experiences became a full-fledged reality when they launched an “Experiences” feature on their app. Experiences allow hosts to offer tours, hands-on events, and other curated experiences to their guests.
While the addition of Experiences built upon their “belong anywhere” identity, the most important component of Airbnb’s success is and has always been their community. And so it’s the stories of their community that flood Airbnb’s various platforms and channels.
Communities Build Brands
Airbnb has regularly shared the stories of their guests and hosts on their blog, social media, YouTube, and even their very own Airbnb Magazine. “Nothing can express our identity more profoundly than the stories of people who make up this community,” Chesky wrote after unveiling Airbnb’s new look and mission.
One of the many people making up Airbnb’s community is JoJo. Have you ever wanted to travel to the UK? What about learning to make wooden clogs? How about doing both at the same time? If this sounds interesting, then Airbnb has just the experience for you. Or, more accurately, Airbnb host JoJo has just the Experience for you.
JoJo’s story is only one of many host stories featured on Airbnb’s YouTube channel. Watch JoJo explain her passion for wood carving below.
Okay, so maybe you aren’t crazy about visiting the UK or making wooden clogs. Instead, a trip to Danville might be your thing. There you’ll meet Airbnb Superhost (and Danville mayor) Dan. Danville accommodations include everything from a yurt to a tree house equipped with an elevator and a hot tub. Below, you can learn more about Dan and Danville.
Hosts and Experiences are important components of Airbnb’s success, but so are happy guests. That’s why Airbnb shares the stories of guests like the Rammel family and their Airbnb trip to Malaga, Spain. You can check out some of the highlights from their trip below.
It’s obvious Airbnb loves to share their host’s and guest’s stories. Whether it’s a slightly silly Superhost and their one-of-a-kind home or the heartwarming story of a family adventure, above all else Airbnb values authentic travel experiences, a sense of belonging, and their community who make it all possible. Yet, while recognizing the importance of hosts and guests, Airbnb believes its values expand beyond their own customers. They believe belonging is a worldwide value and have launched successful initiatives to support this notion.
A brand’s story can expand beyond the company and its customers. To further their ideals of acceptance and belonging, Airbnb strives to make their brand value of belonging a worldwide ideal.
In 2017, Airbnb supported marriage equality in Australia through their “Until We All Belong” campaign.
“Openness and belonging are at the heart of Airbnb—it’s at the core of what we do every day,” Chesky said of the campaign. “We are committed to helping people belong no matter where they are in the world and strongly believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.”
As part of the campaign, Airbnb created the Acceptance Ring (which were in such high demand Airbnb had to limit them to two per person) and shared the stories of Australians who were fighting for marriage equality. These stories took the form of images, like the one below, to short video vignettes and television ads – both of which can be viewed on Airbnb’s YouTube channel.
Similar but subtler examples of Airbnb’s global storytelling initiatives can be found in their magazine.
Airbnb Magazine includes a regular Meet The Locals feature in addition to articles like their November 2018 feature that asked local Africans about harmful stereotypes their countries face. In the article, they were asked what they’d want travelers to know about Africa instead. Articles focused on acceptance and belonging are common throughout both Airbnb Magazine and their blog – just another way Airbnb takes the time to tell stories with a worldwide impact.
These examples are only a few among a myriad of stories coming together to paint a broader portrait. A portrait of a brand that’s more than simply a travel app, more than a tech company, and, maybe, even more than a hospitality company.
Acceptance and belonging are the heart and soul of Airbnb. What better way to share these values than by sharing the stories of the people who embody them and who put a face on them. And while telling the many stories that build a brand’s ideals and values is challenging, it’s an endeavor Airbnb has found immensely valuable.
The Value of Storytelling
Flip through the pages of Airbnb Magazine or spend a minute scrolling through their social media feed and you’ll find yourself immersed in the stories of guests, hosts, and people across the world who represent Airbnb’s values. These storytelling efforts have paid off for Airbnb.
Between 2015 and 2016, Airbnb’s revenue grew by 80%. In 2017, they reached $2.6 billion in revenue, $93 million of which was net profit – and this is after several acquisitions throughout 2016 and 2017. In 2018, Forbes valued Airbnb at $38 billion.
The power of community storytelling is clear for brands large and small.
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We’re always excited to help publishers and brands see deeper engagement with their content. To learn more about our platforms, feel free to schedule a demo at www.nxtbookmedia.com/get-started.