Airbnb

Marketing the Rainbow

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Introduction

Airbnb, Inc. is an American company that operates an online marketplace for lodging, primarily homestays for vacation rentals, and tourism activities. Based in San Francisco, California, the platform is accessible via website and mobile app. Airbnb does not own any of the listed properties; instead, it profits by receiving commission from each booking. The company was founded in 2008. Airbnb is a shortened version of its original name, AirBedandBreakfast.com.

This article was last updated Dec 27, 2021

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Until We All Belong, Australia, 2017

The company showed its social concern by launching a new campaign in 2017, named “Until We All Belong” created by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. The hospitality brand focused on the ongoing lack of marriage equality in Australia and decided to protest against it by creating a powerful spot. They introduced the Acceptance Ring, an incomplete wedding ring symbolizing the inequality issue. People pledged to wear it as long as marriage equality was not achieved. 


With the help of some big Australian brands including Qantas airline, Google, ANZ banking and eBay, the company tried to raise awareness on marriage inequality and promote the societal issue in order to be included on the political agenda.


The campaign included relevant stories from Sally, Geoff, Michelle and Taniesha. A case study was made, showing that this was the largest corporate push for an LGBT-issue in Australia ever, using up the whole annual budget for brand marketing. Within 3 days Airbnb became the most talked about brand in the same-sex marriage debate, globally. They received $5.6 mln in donated media from corporate partners and 110 mln media impressions. Over 750 rings were ordered each day - but the most important moment was: to take them off. The vote was YES.

Community Commitment

In 2016 they released a video that stated the community commitment of Airbnb for its members, and includes acceptance of all people, regardless of i.a. gender identity or sexual orientation.

Let's All Host With Pride, 2016

In this campaign video we meet Hasan Namir, gay Muslim author and avid Airbnb traveler who believes in an Islam that accepts everyone, Chase Blodgett, an Airbnb host and transgender hockey player who inspired new gender rules in the Whitehorse women’s hockey league, and Park Cannon, an Airbnb traveler who won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. Their stories of overcoming struggle remind us just how powerful our communities can be when we all support each other, welcome each other's differences, and #HostwithPride. "Together, we can create a world where we all can truly belong."


KPI's included: 45k social shares and 400k social likes. Achieved was: 46M impressions, 362k likes and 65k shares generating 2.1M earned impressions. Share rate was 1.8x the target for the campaign. It was nominatied for the 1st annual Shorty Social Good Awards in the category Best Integrated Campaign.

Acceptance Starts from Within: We Accept, 2017

Among the employee resource groups are Trans@ and AirPride. They created an Ally Guide to deepen the understanding of gender diversity, and the ways colleagues can act in stronger allyship towards the LGBT+ community. In celebration of Pride, members of AirPride, and its allies share what acceptance means to them.

Connecting 50 Years of Pride, 2019

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, LGBT+ activists, artists, and everyday heroes across generations came together to have a conversation about what Pride means to them.


at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the Documentary Audience Award. It was the company’s very first feature film. Directed by David Charles Rodrigues, “Gay Chorus Deep South” follows the 300-member San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus on their tour across the Southeastern U.S. with the goal of inspiring conversation around inclusivity and civil rights. The film documents the challenges the singers faced as they brought their music into people’s homes, churches and concert halls.

Gay Chorus Deep South, 2019

In response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBT laws and the divisive 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarked on their 10-day Lavender Pen Tour in 201 of the American Deep South. Airbnb developed, financed and produced documentary film “Gay Chorus Deep South,” which premiered

Love is Welcome Here: #HostWithPride Film, 2015

As we celebrate Pride and strive for a world where we all can belong anywhere, we made this film with our friends at Molecule. We look forward to helping create a world where all love is not only accepted, but welcomed, everywhere we go." 


The spot features several couples talking about their love, including two lesbian couples (one with a son), a couple that includes a trans man, and three gay male couples.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 2015

Design practice Alfred: "Hot pink walls, purple patio furniture and a picket fence. Top that all off with a glitter cannon chimney and you’ve got yourself a Mardi Gras techni-colour dream home. The dream became a reality when Airbnb created a first of its kind pop-up house for the Sydney Mardi Gras. More than just a pretty face, the home was fully liveable with beds, kitchen, power and privacy. Perched up on Bennelong Lawn, with views of Sydney Harbour, it was the perfect place for visitors looking

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for somewhere to stay. And stay they did. One lucky couple won the experience of a lifetime, not only getting the chance to sleepover in the house, but also take part in the parade – from the comfort of their temporary home. Doubling as a float, the giant structure was transported wholesale to Oxford Street and, surrounded by dancers, drag queens and performers, became part of the city’s vibrant celebrations."

Drag queen legend Verushka Darling starred in Airbnb’s campaign for the 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival. Darling has been a respected icon of the drag scene for 20 years, best known for her performances at Sydney clubs and her own TV show ‘Verushka’s Closet’ on MTV.


The idea behind the campaign ws to show the benefits of becoming an Airbnb host using a fun event such as Mardi Gras. For example, Darling highlights the insurance policies of Airbnb while decking out her expensive looking living room with hundreds of flowers.


“The LGBT community around the world have been some of the first and most prolific users of Airbnb, hosting and travelling with pride, so we’re excited to support a community that has always embraced us,” Airbnb Australian country manager McDonagh says.


The campaign ‘Host with Pride’, by creative agency Urban, was splashed across billboards in Sydney, social media and other various channels. The seven episodes can be found on my YouTube channel.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 2016: Host with Pride

At the Cannes International Festival the campaign won a silver lion in the Media category and a bronze lion in Design category.

Incidents

Since the hosts are free agents - just like the drivers at Uber - the company has limited control over their actions and behavior, in spite of codes of conduct. Also, because there are millions of hosts, it is very likely that incidents are bound to happen. These usually get a disproportionate amout of press coverage.


However, it has been reported that the ID verification process - introduced in 2012 for hosts to verify their guest - "brings shame to trans people" as the new gender was rejected. One guest posted: "Airbnb, you have made me feel shame, embarrassment and have created such a traumatic experience for me.” The company commented on the post apologizing for the experience and offered to help via DM. But the follow-up once again requested the guest to upload selfies and his ID, saying the previous ID scan did not upload “due to being ‘not readable’ by the system” and listing a series of issues.

Corporate policy

Airbnb's mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. 


The company was a founding member of the Human Rights Campaign Business Coalition for the Equality Act, which advocates for comprehensive legal protections for LGTB+ people.


The company has previously faced criticism after some the hosts on the platform refused guests on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and introduced an anti-discrimination pledge in October 2016. CEO Brian Chesky said the fight against discrimination is “the greatest challenge we face as a company.” They took no half measures: former US Attorney General Eric Holder was hired in order to shape the company’s anti-discrimination policies.

Made possible by Hosts, 2021

In te series "Made possible by Hosts" the video Forever Young shows a group of friends on a holiday. At least two of the men among the snapshots appear to be a couple. With multiple photos of embraces, several or all of them may be gay but it is unstated.

Airbnb is one of the most known collaborative consumption platforms in the world. The company lists more than 4 million lodging in 191 countries, specifically in 65,000 cities, so it does not come as a surprise that Airbnb, besides exchanging services, is a strong example of a corporation that contributes to the society. As of December 2021 Airbnb has a market cap of $106.83 billion.


In 2014 they launched a new identity, one that took London and San Francisco-based DesignStudio a year to complete: “the Bélo”, a Symbol of Belonging. 

Transkind, 2015

At the 2015 ESPY awards, all eyes were on Caitlyn Jenner, the recipient of that year's Arthur Ashe Courage Award. In support of Jenner, Airbnb debuted its "Is Mankind" ad during the broadcast. The one-minute spot features a baby walking toward a window, while a voice suggests people try to see the world from a different perspective. The ad finishes flashing the words “mankind,” “womankind,” “trans-kind,” and “humankind” followed by the campaign's tagline, "belong anywhere".

The clip was memed more than once.


CMO Jonathan Mildenhall said that “transgender personalities are kind of the next group who the media needs to shine a very warm, welcoming and celebrated light on. If you lean into groups of people who are being ignored by marketers, the halo effect on your brand can be phenomenal”. Mildenhall braced himself for negative the backlash after the campaign airs, however he accepted the fact that not everyone will accept everything, and the Internet is not always so ‘kind’.

The original video with the different hashtags is no longer available, but the twitter version of the ending is. "It takes courage to make a difference in the world. It also takes kindness. Tonight we honor both. #Transkind #ESPYS"

Pride

Over the years, they have been sponsor of, or participated in Pride festivals around the world. These are ideal opportunities for Airbnb: rates of the accomodation sometimes go up 100% in these times, so it shows potential new hosts how interesting joining could be, and visitors get the attention for accomodation alternative to hotels. 

From 2014 onwards they partnered with San Francisco Pride, in their hometown. They also partnered with Frameline39, the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival. They also participated in Portland Pride.


In 2019 they had a major presence at WorldPride in New York with a pop-up space, a dance party, Queer Soup Night and "Bingo, Darling". Events were co-hosted by partners like SAGE, athletes Gus Kenworthy and Jason Collins, and Drag Queen Story Hour.

#StayHome, 2020

Of course, 2020 was a desastrous years, especially so for Airbnb. They had to let go of 25% of their staff and had to find ways to stay connected. In March, Airbnb Experiences hosts all over the world had to stop doing what they love - sharing their interests and passions with others. They suggested ways to continue hosting even while we’re apart, and are now inviting you to learn to cook, exercise, or even mime with Airbnb Online Experiences. You could take a flamenco class with Lidón in Madrid, participate in a tarot card reading with Mak in Austin, or visit a colony of penguins in Cape Town - all while you #StayHome. In this video we see a loud drag queen from Italy and what could be a gay couple.

Online Experiences, 2020

When it became clear that the crisis would inhibit travelling for a longer period of time, Airbnb expanded their series "Online Experiences", the virtual version of the platform's popular Experiences, that was launched in April. These new adventures included a colorful lineup of LGBT+ led experiences for Pride month. Users could choose for instance the LGBTQ Culture & Nightlife Experience, which is based in London, costs $4 a person, and is led by TikTok star @moonlight_experiences. "It won't be a night in without getting mesmerized by meeting talented activists or drag queens, drag kings who make our community special," the description reads.


Ranging between $1 and $40 per person, the LGBT-oriented virtual lessons include a queer poetry workshop in Portland taught by a local nonprofit artist collective, a class on LGBTQ Culture and Nightlife in London led by Aisha Shaibu (founder of the LGBTQ nightlife company Moonlight Experiences), and a conversation with some of Thailand’s Kratoey (or “Ladyboys”) to discuss gender identity and the country’s transgender community.

Guests also had the opportunity to join a global LGBTQ bar hop, watch a new interactive live musical by the Lisbon host of “Sangria and Secrets with Drag Queens”, and take a virtual tour of the Stonewall Museum LGBTQ Archives, accessing original artifacts that tell different stories from the pivotal moment in LGBTQ history.

Pride and Coming Out Day, 2018

For these two events, visual artist Luis Munoz-Najar, with the help of Carly Cram shot portraits of Airbnb employees asking them a to tell about a time when they felt accepted or what acceptance means to them. The responses were beautiful. This images were shown globally in all of Airbnb offices to celebrate pride in the month of June.

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Case study: Airbnb

Branche: Travel