Airbnb started with a simple idea: create an opportunity for travelers to experience life as a local in new and exciting destinations, without the hassle of hotels.
Simple ideas often breed complex businesses, and Airbnb has now grown into a worldwide phenomenon. They facilitate rentals of millions of homes across the globe each year. This business success came about for a myriad of reasons — strong ideation, a growing customer base, and increased demand for travel. But Airbnb would not be successful without a powerful marketing strategy underpinning their operations.
In this post we’ll dive into Airbnb’s marketing mix, the strategies that made them a successful brand, and how marketers can use these strategies to improve their own brand promotion operations. But first…
Airbnb Marketing Mix (The 4 Ps)
Airbnb has found success through a balanced marketing mix. This helps them manage a massive collection of customers and partners while continuously expanding their reach.
Airnbnb’s product offerings differ between easy, affordable vacation rentals for its customers and an earning opportunity for its hosts.
Renters are where Aribnb makes most of its income. As such, they maintain a high-quality mobile app and internet presence where these customers can easily make rental reservations.
Hosts are Airbnb’s life-blood. Without this market they would be unable to rent out locations. The company offers hosts impressive incentives, making Airbnb hosting an easy opportunity to add a consistent stream of income.
The original pricing strategy which made Airbnb a success was the company’s ability to undercut local hotels with affordable, comfortable rental locations.
There is still an element of that market-based pricing at play. But now the company employs a more value-based pricing strategy that relies on the perceived and comparative value of bookings nearby to set prices.
One of the greatest advantages Airbnb has over other rental management companies is its breadth of locations worldwide.
With more than 4 million Airbnb hosts worldwide, you’re likely to find quality accommodations almost anywhere you travel.
Airbnb has to promote to both travelers and guests in order to keep its rental system operating correctly. Marketing segmentation is a huge factor in Airbnb’s promotional strategy.
Airbnb effectively promotes its service to travelers through a variety of traditional and digital advertisements along with word-of-mouth and referral marketing tactics.
For hosts, Airbnb shares helpful content to help them make the most out of their Airbnb listings, along with traditional marketing campaigns like their “Made Possible by Hosts” campaign.
Airbnb’s Rise From Side Hustle To Billion-Dollar Business
Airbnb, originally called Air Bed and Breakfast, started in 2007 when three friends were unable to make rent and decided to rent out air mattresses in their living room.
The company’s founders — Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia — made good money off this little venture. So they started hosting other Air Bed and Breakfasts in their hometown of San Francisco whenever the city hosted large conferences.
In 2009, the company changed its name to Airbnb. By late 2010, the Airbnb app and Instant Book feature launched, increasing ease of use and massively growing their customer base.
The Airbnb brand expanded massively over the next few years when they opened offices in multiple countries, provided greater protection and benefits for hosts, and introduced their new logo — the Belo.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Airbnb took on a role in helping facilitate what limited travel was available. They also launched Frontline Stays, a program to safely house medical workers working on the front lines of the pandemic.
Today, Airbnb boasts 6 million listings worldwide in 100K cities and towns, with an estimated 1B+ all-time guest arrivals.
The Marketing Strategies And Tactics That Set Airbnb Apart
So what’s the secret to Airbnb’s billion dollar growth? These are the marketing strategies that have allowed Airbnb to grow beyond expectations.
Build Community and Loyalty Through Targeted Outreach
Airbnb has a difficult balance to strike; they need to reach both customers looking to use their service to book accommodations and hosts looking to advertise their accommodations on the platform.
As such, the company has found ways to target these markets in specific, strategic ways.
For hosts, Airbnb uses community/civic outreach to share how community members can use them to make a second source of income. They also use content marketing tactics to share ways hosts can make the most of their partnership with Airbnb.
Airbnb has also had to work closely with communities to ensure their services are welcome and contribute positively to the actual locals. To do so, Airbnb has launched multiple initiatives aimed at providing economic opportunity. As well as partnered with community groups to create localized positive change.
These outreach efforts have served to strengthen Airbnb’s reputation in communities, making locals more likely to host.
For more general customers, Airbnb utilizes traditional marketing tactics alongside promoting digital and social media advertisements. Much of their social media presence also revolves around sharing user-generated content.
Leverage (But Don’t Rely On) User-Generated Content (UGC)
User-generated content can be a great way to save money on production costs while still sharing content people can relate to and will engage with. For Airbnb, UGC has served as a valuable resource to supplement their social media content stream.
What has set their strategy apart, however, is the realization that UGC can’t be used for everything.
For example, early in the company’s history, its founders weren’t seeing growth from new listings. They realized that most photos posted by hosts were unflattering, so they went door-to-door and professionally photographed each home themselves, resulting in more bookings at those listings.
Lean Into Your Hook
Airbnb’s hook since its founding has been providing travelers the opportunity to experience life as a local.
This is reflected across their marketing materials where they create a cohesive experience that frames its users’ perceptions of their travel experience.
Create A Referral Program
Airbnb has also seen massive success from its referral program, which recently ended but drove 900% yearly growth for first time bookings while it was active.
What made Airbnb’s referral approach so successful was their strategy of providing rewards to both those referring the company and those receiving the referral.
I mean, who doesn’t want to give their friends benefits while earning some rewards for themselves in the process?
This referral program, after extensive A/B testing, worked out to drive massive growth for the company. Word-of-mouth spread and users were eager to share rewards within their immediate networks.
Airbnb’s Strategy: 4 Takeaways For Marketers
1. Encourage And Promote User-Generated Content (UGC)
Especially when your company is starting out, UGC is a great way to share quality content without spending valuable resources on content creation.
For Airbnb, it worked to share the actual experiences they offer. How could you encourage your customers to share your brand’s experiences or products?
2. Segment Your Markets And Create Target-Centric Content
Audience research is crucial for your marketing’s success. And when you do it successfully, you can develop strategies that target precise segments of your target market.
Airbnb has used audience segmentation to engage both users and hosts in different, complimentary ways.
See if there are ways you can target different tactics at segments of your audience. If you offer multiple products, for example, you can start by creating target personas for each one and addressing their needs in your marketing efforts.
3. Create An Altruistic Referral Program
A main factor in Airbnb’s massive and rapid growth was the implementation of an altruistic referral program which incentivized users to share the company’s app and services with people in their network.
Are there opportunities for your company to market a referral program to your customers and their networks?
In the same vein, is there any way you can spur your customers to leave product reviews and start conversations online about your brand?
4. Reflect Your Hook In All Promotions
If you want to build a brand like Airbnb, you need a strong foundation. For Airbnb, this was their main hook and value proposition, giving travelers the opportunity to “Live Like a Local.”
By leaning into this value proposition and building their system around living up to it, Airbnb has been able to maintain a consistent positive experience for their customers throughout the company’s existence.
Identify your company’s main value proposition, and then build your operations and promotional materials to reflect those values. In doing so you can create more consistent marketing that will continuously appeal to your target audience.
Build A Great Marketing Strategy Like Airbnb
Don’t forget to claim your marketing strategy template bundle at the top of this post, and then go out and start creating a marketing strategy that will succeed in your target market.