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AirBnB: Brand Positioning Case Study

Mar 24, 2023
AirBnB Brand Positioning

I don’t stay at Airbnbs often. The crazy fees can be pretty annoying. But when I do stay at one, one thing is always clear — the Airbnb brand is in flow. 

Its "heart, head, and hands" are in perfect sync. So this next fact actually makes sense…

Today, Airbnb brings in $6.6B annually dwarfing its direct competitor VRBO which is at $385M annually. Even though VRBO had a 13 year head start 🤯

This isn’t an accident. It’s a perfect example of what happens when you speak to your audience’s emotions every step of their journey.

Let’s get into it…

💼 The Brand: Airbnb

  • The company was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk, who started by renting out air mattresses in their apartment during a design conference in San Francisco.

💛 The Heart (Mission & Vision)

  • Airbnb's mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, by providing a platform that enables people to discover and book unique travel experiences.
  • The company believes in the power of travel to bring people together and create a sense of belonging.

👤 The Head (Strategy & Positioning)

  • Airbnb has positioned itself as a trusted and community-driven platform for unique travel experiences.
  • With Airbnb, it’s not just a hotel stay, it’s an “experience” and an “adventure.”
  • This means that now people are able to book stays at castles, treehouses, and even David Copperfield's private island if you can swing $60k/night.
  • By creating a community of hosts and guests, Airbnb has fostered a sense of belonging and personal connection that sets it apart from traditional hotel chains.

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✋ The Hands (Tactics):

Airbnb has employed various tactics to solidify its position as a disruptive, adventurous brand.

  • What’s Gone Wrong 👎
    • In 2015, Airbnb ran a snarky billboard campaign addressing the $12M in annual hotel taxes they were paying the city of San Franciso. But this “disruprtive” tactic didn’t work out too well for them.
  • What’s Gone Right 👍
    • The “Don’t go there. Live there.” campaign showcases vacation shots mentioning the idea of not just staying somewhere, but truly experiencing it.
    • This ad featuring a dad with his kid is a perfect example of Airbnb's uniqueness. You probably wouldn't stay at a hotel just for its pool, but it's an easy decision for your Airbnb "experience."

    • The “Bonnie & Clyde” video campaign (launched shortly after the pandemic) features an older couple living it up on a European vacation as the Jay-Z track plays behind them.
    • Airbnb leverages "user-generated content" by allowing hosts to create Guidebooks for their guests. This can include everything from photos to food recommendations. 

How You Can Steal Their Strategy

Speak to Your Audience’s Emotional Needs

One of the key differentiors for Airbnb is how it speaks to the emotional needs of its audience. Its raving fans don’t book with them just for a place to sleep. They book with them for a place to experience the feeling of adventure.

We refer to this as "Brand Personality” in our 10 Pillars of Positioning 👉 Get the free checklist here

To steal this strategy, consider how your brand can tap into your customers' emotional needs. What unique feeling can you offer them that sets you apart from your competitors? How can foster that sense of personal connection? By speaking to your customers' emotional needs, trust is naturally built.

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