August 10, 2018

A Home away from home: Storytelling à la Airbnb

Airbnb is the world’s leading online platform for private holiday accommodations. On August 11th, the San Francisco-based company celebrated its tenth birthday. We’ll tell you how the three founders made it from an air mattress sharing company to a billion company. All with the help of storytelling:


The storytelling evolution: From hotel alternative to global home-away-from-home

In 2008, the still inexperienced founders started with a clear and above all simple mission: Forget hotels! Their platform for short-term apartment rentals for price-conscious travellers worked without any frills and far-reaching vision. 2009, only one year after its launch, the startup followed up in terms of communication. In order to differentiate from common hotels more clearly, but still offer the same travel feeling, the company went one step further with the claim “Travel like a Human”.

The major rebranding and continuous expansion of the business model followed in 2013. With “Belong Anywhere” the company today pursues a mission that goes beyond mere renting or booking of apartments. With the help of various key messages, such as the call to discover the world, the brand wants to further the cult of traveling. Away from sleazy rooms or anonymous hotels to enjoying diversity and creating a feeling of belonging – anywhere in the world.


Content community: Accompany heroes and tell their stories

An important component for Airbnb to share its own messages and values with their target group is content marketing. So it’s hardly surprising that on Instagram and their blog they regularly focus on stories of traveling heroes. The community exchanges experiences and adventures and shares tips and advice – an incredible gain in authenticity for the brand.

The company also actively encourages dialogue between travelers and hosts with its specially created hashtag #AirbnbExperiences. The Instagram channel in particular is bursting with impressive images of unique Airbnb dwellings and satisfied customers, thanks in part to the active use of this specific hashtag, which in turn is intended to inspire the target group to new adventures.

The key messages behind the brand

Every year anew all kinds of travel providers try to tempt us with last-minute and package holiday offers. For Airbnb’s concept to work, however, this travelling habit has to change from all-inclusive vacation to short trips far away from hotel complexes. To achieve this, the company focuses primarily on three messages:

  • With Airbnb you are at home during your stay. – No matter where the travelers want to go. Far away from anonymous hotel rooms, the main objective with Airbnb is to find a cozy accommodation even in the most remote corner of the world. This image runs through the entire communication of the brand but is also reinforced by the pictorial world of their social media channels.

  • You can try out Airbnb first before deciding to go on an expanded holiday. – No long-term planning is required for a booking on the platform. Plus, most of the time it is easy to cancel if your plans change. This handling, which contrasts in a major way with travel agencies, is now appealing to an ever-growing target group. And if you don’t like the Balinese wooden house by the pool, you can still travel all-inclusive next time.

  • Discover the world with Airbnb and join a community. – Whoever books with the company automatically becomes part of a movement, or so it seems. Would you like to stay on a small island in Finland all by yourself? No problem with Airbnb. Just take a look at all the satisfied travelers who already did so. With the right hashtag on Instagram, you can then share your adventure or get tips in advance.

Captivating brand communication with a sense of unity

Airbnb’s communication with the certain storytelling twist is convincing on all levels. The company is uniquely positioned as an empathic mentor who is passionate about the diversity of travel. Against sterile mass tourism and for more hospitality on the way – always with their community in mind.




Manja Rehfeld on EmailManja Rehfeld on Linkedin
Manja Rehfeld
Senior-Beraterin bei Mashup Communications
Mit ihrer Leidenschaft für die englische Sprache, Notizen und ausgiebiger Recherche ist Manja der Sherlock Holmes der Earlybirds – immer auf der Suche nach Fakten und Informationen für Geschichten.