Airbnb’s Chief Marketing Officer steps down: new challenge for the home sharing leader

“Creativity is intelligence having fun” – Albert Einstein.

A person who lives by this quote, who changed the face of an industry and set precedents for another marketing strategist, steps down from one of his more successful projects. The Marketing icon none other than Jonathan Mildenhall steps down from his position as Airbnb Chief Marketing Officer. His decision brought to light on October 4th, 2017, and he shall relinquish and exit on October 20th, 2017.

Airbnb was not always the brand that you know it is. It started with an objective of being a property listing platform. The start-up was successful in its objective but it there was a major change in its brand identity in by making it a household name for travellers.
The man behind this change was the now ex-Airbnb Chief Marketing Officer, who chose to rebrand and reposition a property listing rental website, bringing it to stunning growth.

You and Everybody – A Community-driven approach

Due to the effort by CMO, Airbnb evolved into a culturally driven brand. It was planned, deliberate and focused attempt to make Airbnb a community. The process to revamp the perception of the brand began with an idea, which conveyed the belief in humanity.

As a result, this stirred the need to re-design the logo. Refashioning the logo made the company build a mission greater than ever seen before. The famous Belo logo became a symbol representing all of us, i.e Humanity. It was formed on four pillars; People, Places, Love and Airbnb.

The brand repositioning was fuelled by the idea of creating a world where travelling was not entering a foreign land. Ex-Airbnb Chief Marketing Officer aggressively pushed the notion of living like a local in a foreign land. A community-driven approach changed the platform completely. The start-up that was merely meant for sharing of accommodation turned into a platform committed to delivering the localized unique experience.

Airbnb still remains the first choice for many new hosts in comparison to another platform.

Choose to become a traveller, not a tourist – Airbnb Marketing Strategy

  1. Over the years, Airbnb has deployed brand building strategies which were never seen before. Originality, vibrancy and a pleasing appeal is the hallmark of this billion dollar vacation rental company.
  2. By designing every user-interface with minimalism yet elegance, Airbnb has revolutionized the way a customer interacts with the platform. For instance, on one occasion the city host listing on the website was presented in an enigmatic movie-styled poster. If the supposed host is a fitness enthusiast, the listing contained a cover photo of the host jogging through a train track.
  3. Moreover, by adding a neighbourhood guide to the platform, guests were offered with an opportunity to go sight-seeing or exploring. Monuments, activities or events that highlight the significance of the locality of the guest brought a one-of-a-kind sense of engagement.

It further promoted the feeling of trust, security and community as envisioned by the founders of the company. Airbnb is one of the companies that stayed true to its root and survived the catastrophe that killed many tech-start-ups during its inception phase.

Founders who never sold out on their vision (Why Mildenhall joined Airbnb?)

Brian Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, is a pivotal leader who vividly imagined the vision at the time of birth of his brand. Mildenhall’s was fraught with nervousness at his first meeting with the co-founder because he was sceptic about the success of this technological start-up in Silicon Valley. Numerous start-up failed during the period immediately preceding the proposed appointment date of the CMO.
It was the tenacity and unwavering belief of Brian Chesky that convinced Mildenhall to take over the wheels and drive the company’s rebranding vision to its ultimate destination.

Airbnb boasts about its significance mileage and presence in the Cannes ad festival. It is one of the most aspirational milestones for a brand to make it to the revered Cannes Ad Festival.

Marketers and strategists at Airbnb had their nose to the grindstone for years to witness the fruits of their labour come to fruition. A lion’s share of the company’s revenue was poured into enhancing the visibility of the brand online as well as offline. In order to raise the platform to the top of Google Engine Ranking Page and attract swarms of traffic to their website, Airbnb played the high stake.
A whopping $23.5 Million was spent on marketing, advertising and branding alone from 2014-2015.

Why Airbnb became a case-study for marketing professionals?

Here some of their best campaigns:

  1. “Belong Anywhere”
  2. “Belo”
  3. “Book unique homes and experience city like a local “

Off-late few notorious taglines like–

  1. “Sleep in their bed, so you can know their dreams.”
  2. “Go look through their windows, so you can understand their views.”
  3. “Sit at their tables so you can share their tastes.”

The recurrent theme in every tagline is the same that is to bring about a sense of togetherness, belonging and joy of sharing. It is clear that the blueprint of the company’s brand was the recipe for its successful branding effort.

With the above effect, the company passed down its value to the guest, host and stakeholders associated with them. The idea of a community-driven approach grew exponentially through referrals because the experience of validation, togetherness and belonging resonated within them.

The explosive growth in branding was an outcome of the planned and systematic effort.

A bittersweet moment for the community! Jonathan wants to help…!

Jonathan Mildenhall was a messiah for Airbnb and Brian Chesky himself admits to the fact. He said, “Looking back, I think it’s safe to say that Jonathan led us well up the mountaintop.”

I had the pleasure to hear both of them at Airbnb Open 2015. The presentation of the ex-Airbnb Chief Marketing Officer indeed was impressive.

The vacation rental giant Airbnb will seek outside consultancy from Mildenhall as he is willing to lend his services to the enterprise. What does the future behold for Airbnb? Everybody is waiting, holding their breath to witness the marketing innovation that will lead the company to reshape the future as we know it.

Although there is unconfirmed news about Airbnb entering into airline/flight service, restaurant booking business and many other travel convenience industries, we’re yet to have an official verdict on the same. Till then we can only speculate. Do you think Airbnb is making the right move by venturing into other industries?

Share your thoughts in the comment below!