Skift Take

While Airbnb is returning to core brand messaging around homes and guests, it faces tough battles on the ground — especially in New York City.

Airbnb launched its latest brand campaign, “Get an Airbnb,” last week, using animation styles reminiscent of the previous “Airbnb It” campaign from last fall that targeted hosts. 

Airbnb designed the campaign – a series of 15-second videos – to highlight what it says are its strengths: more space, amenities, and privacy at a better value. Within the first few seconds, one animation communicates accessibility and diversity, portraying a traveler in a wheelchair and travelers of different races and sizes among groups of adult friends. 

In the ad, focusing on ease and price, a voiceover asks, “If you’re taking a trip with your friends, why pay for four hotel rooms to stay apart from your friends? Get an Airbnb and stay together for less.” 

In another that highlights privacy and choice, the voiceover asks, “If you’re finally ready to take a trip without the kids, why stay at a hotel with more kids? Get an Airbnb, and get a place to yourself.” 

A third video will be released this fall. 

The ads are a direct knock against hotels, showing the travelers siloed into separate hotel rooms or overwhelmed by a crowded hotel pool before bringing them together in a warm terracotta house with an outdoor chimney or a private pool in a jungle bungalow. 

The animations notably show groups of friends, a clear delineation from Vrbo’s recent ads focusing on family getaways.

The brand campaign was developed in-house with established animation partner BUCK, known for crafting animations for other tech companies like Headspace, Instacart, and Harry’s Razors. The campaign launched in the U.S. and Canada on August 24 and will gradually roll out across Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Korea, UK, and other European markets in early September. The videos will appear across digital, social, and out-of-home channels. 

Airbnb’s Shift in Marketing Strategies

Airbnb is in a unique position. Its strong brand recognition and the quality of direct traffic it receives enable the company to reduce its dependence on Google. Airbnb is taking incremental steps toward shifting its brand perception by focusing on brand storytelling versus pure acquisition plays.

In 2022, Airbnb broke out its brand marketing as a share of sales and marketing expenses for the first time and revealed that the company allocated $771.9 million to “brand and performance marketing” in the first three quarters of that year. Of that, 26% represented increased spending on specific brand marketing campaigns. 

This shift from performance marketing to brand storytelling was part of Airbnb’s reaction to the pandemic and its efforts to reconnect with hosts, guests, and homes

Airbnb CMO Hiroki Asai explains on the heels of this new campaign, “As Airbnb was growing, pre-pandemic, it was losing its differentiation. There were a lot of competing options for travelers out there and Airbnb … was losing its uniqueness. So, coming out of the pandemic, the decision was to really focus on the core business and to focus on creating experiences, creating features and creating a product … to differentiate ourselves and then to use brand to actually communicate and teach people what those differences are.”

Airbnb introduced 50 new features and upgrades as part of its annual summer release in May — most notably Airbnb Rooms, which pushes private rooms and is part of the company’s efforts to return to its roots.

The company has also seen growth in its new listing service, where owners of multi-family properties allow tenants to rent out their units occasionally. Airbnb’s global head of real estate, Jesse Stein, shared details of the program at Skift’s Short-term Rental Conference on June 7 in New York City. The program launched in the U.S. in November 2022 now has 260 properties in 40 markets.

Airbnb persists in its battle against local legislation, taking legal action against New York City this summer to contest regulations limiting certain activities within the city. The company contends that these mandates, which require hosts to register with the city and comply with specific laws, effectively ban short-term rentals. A judge in Manhattan dismissed the lawsuit earlier this month and enforcement is set to begin September 5. 

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky will return to the Skift Global Forum for the third consecutive year to discuss the company’s product changes and vision for integrating AI into the business.

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Tags: airbnb, branded advertising, hotels

Photo credit: A still from the new "Get an Airbnb" ad campaign. Airbnb

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