I am just back from a trip to France with my family. It was a lovely expedition. One highlight was trying Airbnb for the first time; I used the website to book two different stays.
So how did it go? Perfect. The first property was an old farm-house in the French countryside. Our hosts were a charming couple with small kids. I believe we were their first guests. We fit right in. The second property was a fabulous apartment in Paris; it was spacious and clean, close to all the sites and in a busy neighborhood.
Airbnb is a compelling platform. It is easy to use and navigate. More important, the 360 degree review function builds confidence; it means that hosts are concerned about keeping guests happy, and guests are concerned about keeping hosts happy. I gave both properties top reviews and I was happy to receive good ratings in return.
The challenge for Airbnb is now to scale quickly; the service needs to attract more hosts and guests to build scale and create a powerful network.
So I was interested to see Airbnb’s new advertising campaign. Here it is:
My assessment is that the campaigned is well-intentioned but misses the mark.
Airbnb is focusing on a very high order benefit: kindness. The ad encourages us to use Airbnb to explore the world and see just how wonderful it is. This is inspirational and positive.
The problem is that this isn’t why people use Airbnb. I suspect people use Airbnb to find a nice place to stay at a reasonable price. That was certainly my objective when booking places in France. Was I exploring the world to learn about mankind? No.
Will the idea learning about mankind get people to visit the Airbnb site? Will that motivate people to post their property? It won’t.
Airbnb should focus more on the product. The company has a tremendous offering; the marketing effort should tell people about it. For new users, the questions are simple. What is Airbnb, anyway? How does it work? Why should I use it? Can I trust it?
New brands need to establish a frame of reference and provide a benefit. Airbnb’s new campaign fails on both fronts.
Another issue with Airbnb’s spot is that many other hospitality companies can offer the same thing. Airlines, hotel companies and tour operators can all make a similar promise. Exploring the world isn’t a unique benefit.
Still, I’m a big supporter and happy to spread the news. Airbnb is fabulous. Word of mouth is the best marketing of all, so I suspect the brand will keep growing despite a somewhat weak campaign.