Airbnb is a master of branding and tempting UX.
I thought I’d roundup some examples, from campaigns to webpages and even little bits of what one might call ‘micro UX’.
It should be noted that not all of Airbnb’s creative efforts have gone smoothly (have a look at Birdbnb and Shell, the once-evicted super host) – these mis-steps are par for the course for a disruptive newcomer.
However, there’s plenty worth shouting about within Airbnb’s community-led approach, so I hope you enjoy reading through this list and find some inspiration.
One other thing, Airbnb are among the speakers at the Festival of Marketing in London on October 5-6, which is headlined by Sir Martin Sorrell and Steve Wozniak.
Right, off we go..
1. City Hosts listings
The City Hosts beta is Airbnb for days out, allowing tourists to have an authentic experience for a few hours in their destination city e.g. running, pottery, fishing.
What I like so much about it are the listings pages, with each experience given its own enigmatic movie-style poster (see below).
The experience titles are not completely ambiguous, but they do add intrigue and encourage the user to click to find out exactly what they entail.
The product pages and UX are akin to the regular Airbnb experience, with information about the hosts, the activity, and neat little features like the ability to opt-in to notifications when more dates become available.
One can search by city and by date – all in all, fun webpages to navigate and a nice cross-sell for Airbnb.
2. The floating house
A bit of experiential PR now, with the Airbnb house that was floated down the Thames in May 2015.
The stunt celebrated the Deregulation Act, confirming Londoners could let their house out for 90 days (effectively the legalisation of Airbnb, which had been a grey area).
In terms of PR, the competition (win a stay in the floating house) delivered 73,500 people to the Airbnb site, 28,000 of whom were new to Airbnb.
Reach of 19m on social media was impressive and you need only Google ‘airbnb floating house’ to see how effective the campaign was.
3. The Belo logo
There was a small amount consternation on social media when Airbnb’s current branding launched in 2014, as the Belo logo looks not unlike the previously existing logo for Automation Anywhere.
But the rebranding process was a huge success (read more here) and, as Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall told FastCo, was “when [Airbnb] went from a property listings company, which is what we were – a very successful property listings company – to a culturally-driven brand.”
The Belong Anywhere campaign and the Belo logo launched Airbnb as a super brand.
4. Neighbourhood guides
There are 23 neighbourhood guides curated by Airbnb, for the largest conurbations where Airbnb hosts proliferate. Each is extensive.
There is much to love about these guides, with Airbnb’s indomitable tone of voice ringing throughout.
Here’s a list of what makes the neighbourhood guides great:
Neighbourhood guides are heavy on photography…
…essential for marketing of place.
Using local photographers means authenticity and unusual aspects that don’t look like normal travel agent fare.
Each long page is a mesmerising joy to scroll, and at the bottom there’s even details of each photographer and their websites.
See the summary of Tokyo below. Listing what locals love and hate paints a picture of the city in the way that mere listings of attractions cannot.
The guides also include well-labelled maps and plenty of transport advice.
Summary of Tokyo.
Integration with hosts
As one would expect with Airbnb, this content marketing of sorts is a whole lot more.
These guides are integrated into the Airbnb platform and therefore offer genuine value to users.
What that means is links through to places to stay, quotes from hosts, community tags (crowdsourced lists of attractions), and the ability to save neighbourhoods to look at them again later.
5. Live There campaign
2016 has seen Airbnb further develop its brand proposition, rooted in travel, communities, people and experiences.
The Live There campaign sums this up brilliantly, contrasting the Airbnb experience with more traditional, more inauthentic travel.
As Jonathan Mildenhall told Marketing Week, Airbnb is “moving towards [an] end-to-end experience proposition where the core of the Airbnb brand value proposition transcends accommodation.”
6. App design
The app was redesigned for the Live There campaign launch. It now offers a more personalised experience, with Airbnb improving its matching algorithms to present users with the right information and listings.
But it’s the simplicity of the design that strikes me most.
The main page of the app is a long scrolling experience including recent searches, recently viewed listings, a whole bunch of recommendations and extensive content such as guidebooks.
There’s no faffing about in a menu, discovery is baked into the homepage of the app.
The four other tabs on the footer menu give access to more practical areas of the app – search functionality, messages from hosts, your booked trips and your profile.
It’s one of the easiest apps to navigate that I have experienced, with the white space and chunky headers making it a joy to use.
The Airbnb app homepage.
The Airbnb app
I have already extolled the merits of Airbnb’s Guidebooks in another post – 10 examples of great travel marketing campaigns.
They are similar to the neighbourhood guides discussed earlier, but are different in one crucial aspect – they are crowdsourced from hosts, each of whom is invited to add their recommendations to the platform. That makes them more personal, more authentic.
There are aggregated city guidebooks, too, which meritocratically tot up all the host votes and present a list of top ‘things to do’.
The Guidebooks do cross over slightly with neighbourhood guides, but are much more about planning activities, rather than deciding where to stay.
What’s to like about the design of the guidebooks? Well, they are a great example of user-generated content, laid out a bit like TripAdvisor, only with a cleaner design.
Host comments are included, there’s a handy map with all attractions marked, filters for different types of place, and external links to useful websites.
User-generated content is exactly what Airbnb is about – letting travellers experience the authentic side of their destination. Ultimately these guidebooks should become a platform in their own right.
A host guidebook.
8. Airbnb Stories
These host stories are simple but effective – honest portraits of some of Airbnb’s best hosts.
A few years old now, these stories are nevertheless an important part of Airbnb’s marketing.
Though not everyone will come across this content or need it to be convinced to book, without community-led content, Airbnb would be failing to publicise its USP.
9. Hollywood Vine
Okay, Vine is a bit irrelevant now, but Airbnb used it early, when buzz was high and quick social video wasn’t something we took for granted.
Arirbnb used Vine to engage and incentivise, with a short film competition offering a trip to the Sundance Film Festival.
The company then created a feature length Vine with many of the entries. This was 2013, when Vine was low-fi and fun, but the film shows the roots of Airbnb’s positive, community-led brand.
10. The ‘Learn About Airbnb’ proposition
A very simple but powerful example of demonstrating your value proposition on the homepage.
Airbnb has a button with the call to action to ‘learn about Airbnb’. Those new to the service can click here and will be presented with a series of lightbox slides which eloquently sum up the service.
The copy is brief, to the point, and sums up the popularity and the USPs of the service. Combined with high quality, authentic photography, there’s a lot to be learned here.
Perhaps the best note to finish on is one from James McClure, Airbnb’s general manager for UK & Ireland.
He told Marketing Week about Airbnb’s community-led marketing strategy, saying: “Our selling point is that we don’t view marketing with a capital M like most companies do; everything we do starts with the community first.”
“If you look closely at other iconic brands and their moment of brand truth, it’s when you open that iPhone box or try on those Nike trainers for the first time. We are succeeding in making that first moment a traveller knocks on a door and meets their host our defining truth.”
James’ eloquent assertion is evidenced in the creative and content above. Airbnb is doing a great job.