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Brands That Get It: Airbnb

In 2015, you won’t find millennials lingering in hotel lobbies, or waiting for their continental breakfast; in fact, you may not see them in hotels at all. Airbnb has changed the way people travel. It has become a disruptive innovator in the stagnant hotel industry. The brand has capitalized on this revolutionary sharing economy where anyone with a couch can become an entrepreneur. They’ve gone through extensive rebranding to not only enhance the user experience online, but to also extend past the digital sphere and create a foundation offline. Travel shouldn’t just be about being there; Airbnb wants you to know you can belong anywhere. Here’s our take on why we think Airbnb is a brand that gets it.

Extreme Makeover: Branding Edition

When Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia first founded Airbnb in August 2008, they were renting out air mattresses in their living room. The logo was created in a matter of hours and was only meant for temporary use, yet six years later the blue bubble-letter writing was still the logo and face of their company. Chesky was quoted in a 2014 interview with Fast Company saying,

“We were growing so fast, it became one of those things where you say you’ll figure it out later, but then you never end up doing it because you’re too busy.”

When Chesky and Gebbia finally started to talk about a rebrand, the duo went through extensive research to figure out what was contributing to the brand’s success. The website is bursting with ordinary people who want to host and show traveling strangers their part of the world. It’s strangers hosting strangers. So, what does that stand for? It boiled down to belonging. Belonging anywhere.

“The brand shouldn’t say we’re about community, or our international [reach], or renting homes—it’s about belonging,” said Chesky.

When it came time for a new logo to be designed, elements of a heart, a location pin, and the “A” in Airbnb were all incorporated. They’ve named this unique symbol the “Bélo,” the universal symbol of belonging. Chesky and Gebbia believe storytelling is essential to successful branding, and so do we – the completed rebrand shares the story Airbnb has begun to tell and what the founders hope for the brand’s future.

When Airbnb launched the Bélo in July 2014, they also introduced an editing service called Create. Airbnb encourages hosts and guests to use this editing software to modify Airbnb’s logo with the hosts’ or guests’ individual flair. The unique logos can be printed on cups, apparel, stamps and other items to share with guests as souvenirs. In addition to the logo design, the website and Airbnb app got an update as well. The crisp, clean website and app features vibrant snapshots of picturesque views that can evoke anyone’s wanderlust. Was anything missing from the brand overhaul? Turns out Airbnb had something else to reveal – Pineapple.

AirBnB Rebrand

Pineapple: Bringing stories alive offline

Pineapple is Airbnb’s print magazine that launched in January 2015. In an age where more and more printed materials are moving online, Airbnb was looking for a bigger presence offline. As Fast Company’s Austin Carr puts it, “When you arrive at an Airbnb, your interaction with the brand itself essentially ends with the app; there’s no Airbnb flag outside the door welcoming you when you check in like there is at, say, a Hilton.” In an attempt to permeate a presence in the real world, Airbnb is printing 18,000 free copies of Pineapple to give to Airbnb hosts around the world.

According to the website,

“Pineapple is a platform for the incredible stories from Airbnb’s extended family to be shared; it is somewhere for readers to see how people live and create connections in cities today.”

The inaugural issue is 128 pages and will feature stories and hosts from London, Seoul, and San Francisco. Subsequent issues will be published quarterly with the hopes of reaching consumers with Airbnb’s stories.

How Airbnb created it’s own sub-economy

As Airbnb works to create an “end-to-end travel experience,” they’ve also managed to create a niche sub-economy, further disrupting the traditional systems and inspiring other innovators.

For many, the key pick-up/drop-off process for Airbnb hosts and guests is the most stressful part of the experience. “The sharing economy was just missing that trust aspect on the last 10 yards,” said the owner of City CoPilot, one of the many companies created to facilitate the Airbnb business and process. City CoPilot offers daily luggage storage, key exchange, and package acceptance for New Yorkers. “We wished there were a business like ours, so we just created it,” she said. And they’re not the only ones. Guesty, KeyCafe and several other companies have capitalized on the sub-economy Airbnb has created within this sharing economy culture, offering services for both users and hosts.

“Explore the World”

With more than 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities in 192 countries around the world, the numbers speak for themselves. Airbnb has disrupted the traditional travel model and has created a revenue source for hundreds of thousands of people. And the brand isn’t slowing down, Chesky comments on what he hopes the Bélo will become – a “universal symbol of sharing,”

“Imagine one day you’re walking down the street and you see the Airbnb symbol in a window—you’ll know that it’s an Airbnb and a place that can be shared.”

Through a successful full-blown rebrand, the launch of a print magazine amidst the digital age, and an onslaught of new businesses created in its unique sub-economy, Airbnb has proven to Bates Creative that it’s a brand that gets It.

What do you think is in store for Airbnb in the next couple of years? Do you think its print magazine will be a success?

Do you have another brand that you think gets it? Let us know, and we may feature them next!


Written by: Leah Levendusky, Marketing Intern, Bates Creative

*Images courtesy of  Underconstruction.com, all rights reserved.

Bates Creative

Bates Creative

Bates Creative is an integrated design agency that delivers client's stories through design.


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