Airbnb wants to improve the user experience by encouraging its hosts to “do that little bit extra” and organise personalised trips in cities.
Speaking at BITE LIVE by creativebrief event yesterday (9 November), Airbnb admitted it is a challenge for the brand to make a “human to human” connection due to its digital foundations.
As a result, it is now hoping to put a bigger focus on its hosts so it can control the user experience more closely.
“It is a challenge as we can’t dictate what your experience is going to be like – it’s up to the host. All we can do is empower our community to make it the best it possibly can be,” the brand’s UK marketing manager Ben Kendall said.
“We want to start owning the end-to-end travelling experience, and want to enable travel trips in cities. For example, someone could arrive in London and their host will take them on a fashion tour around boutiques in East London. That’s the next thing – we want to enable the hosts to do that little bit extra.”
That human touch has been key in helping Airbnb expand, particularly in European markets such as Berlin where it initially struggled. Kendall explained that the “cynical” German market “didn’t get” Airbnb, which is why it had to use new marketing tactics to fit into the local scene.
As a result, the brand launched an experiential campaign in co-operation with marketing agency Amplify that allowed German locals to “step into the Airbnb world”. It organised numerous open houses and worked with artists and influencers to introduce more people to the brand by pushing content out on their own channels.
“It can’t just be about physical experiences, we wanted the campaign to live on digitally after the event. This campaign came to exist because of big issues and obstacles, but what it also brought to life was that we had to connect people properly with cultural scenes and references. You can’t just be lazy in marketing,” he said.
Not all innovation requires tech
Also speaking at the event was The Big Issue’s managing director Russell Blackman, who argued that not all innovation requires a high-spec piece of technology.
The brand, which aims to tackle the cycle of homelessness through selling magazines, decided to branch out a year ago by launching its own ‘Change Please’ coffee brand in partnership with FCB Inferno.
The coffee brand helps house homeless individuals in temporary accommodation and train them as baristas to sell premium coffee from custom-made coffee vans. They are paid the London living wage as they gain the skills and experience needed to enter the mainstream workforce. Any profit is re-invested into the programme to train a new cycle of baristas.
The move came after Blackman said The Big Issue “needed to reconnect with British audiences”.
And in the 12 months since Change Please launched, it has set up eight carts around London and taken 20 people off the street and put them in stable employment and accommodation. Blackman also said the initiative led to a bigger “halo effect” around the brand, with magazine sales up 8%.
He concluded: “The initiative has put The Big Issue brand in a new and on-trend context. There are now plans to graduate people to more traditional coffee chains, but there are also plans to open up [our own] retail stores.”