A Lesson in Great Brand Storytelling – the Airbnb Story

Airbnb-Wall-and-Chain-Short-FilmAirbnb is a room renting website. Anyone, anywhere in the world can add a room or liveable space to the site for others to visit and stay in whilst traveling, on business or holidaying. You can book a room, an apartment, a castle even an island…the accommodation is endless.

Like many successful new online businesses Airbnb is a phenomenon set up by two guys in San Francisco, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky who were struggling to pay their rent. In 2007 the Design Conference was coming to the city and the hotels were either booked up or charging astronomical rates. Joe and Brian had the idea to set up three airbeds on their living room floor and offer them out with a cooked breakfast. They set up a website called airbedandbreakfast.com and within the week had a chap who had travelled from India, a woman from Boston and a father of four from Utah sleeping on the floor of their apartment.

After a successful first night they realised they had stumbled upon a potential idea to create a site where others could list their spare rooms and floors and travellers could book them.

They built a better website and targeted festivals and conferences. In 2008 they had a huge breakthrough in Denver where Barak Obama was due to speak at the Democratic Conference there. 80,000 people were due to visit the city and the hotels and room capacity was maxed out. Up pop Airbnb offering a website where residents could offer their spare rooms to visitors of the conference. It was a success, and the rest as they say is history. In January 2013 they took their one millionth booking.

This is the story of the early Airbnb and how, from very humble beginnings and the foresight to help others, this amazing business was born. And that story hasn’t just built a business; it’s built a community and a new way to see the world.

It’s a great brand story, it tells us about ‘why’ the business was born and ‘what’ it offers in a really engaging way.

The Airbnb brand story doesn’t finish there. In fact they have continued to tell stories. In the same way that many great brands do, they went and asked their customers how and why they used Airbnb. Many of the stories that came back capture the essence of the brand and its community.

However one of the best examples of a great brand story is this one from Catherine who took her father, a guard on the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, on a trip to revisit Berlin. On that trip they booked an Airbnb apartment and the man they met there changed their lives…

Wall & Chain – a story of breaking down walls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpAdyFdE3-c

I think you will agree this short story says so much more than marketing messages could ever say.  Brand Stories can help build your brand and engage your audiences. If you’d like to find out more please feel free to get in touch.