The Post-branding Brand: Why We Should Be Applauding Airbnb
Airbnb is a fantastic concept. In the burgeoning collaborative economy, Airbnb is part of an elite (but non-elitist) group of companies like Skillshare, TaskRabbit, ZipCar and Uber, who use technology to connect people to what they want in new and better ways. For those of us who think about marketing and brands for a living, it looks like this group will be the Nikes and Apples of their day. Case studies in the making. Brand leaders of their new generation.
Which is why it’s so interesting that on reflection, AirBnB is kind of a non-brand if you hold them to the standard of what a brand initially signified: a guarantee of quality, consistency of experience. The rules of successful brand building are rigorous control and management of visual ID, experience, etc. (e.g., Apple). Or codification of the personality, key benefits and iconography (e.g., P&G).
At Figliulo&Partners, we think the most successful brands today understand how to deliver structure, variation of message and experience rather than boring matched luggage. They’re brands like Geico and our founding client, Sprint, and they’re the exception rather than the rule.
In our view, the Airbnb re-branding is not just a shift in visual identity – it’s a genius move that reflects the un-brandedness and infinite variety of the experience they offer. According to reports it took a year of research and soul-searching to arrive at a core truth: Airbnb can’t guarantee, control, predict or enhance the experience that their users ultimately enjoy (or don’t). So they don’t try to. Instead, they make their logo as individual as the experiences they offer. It’s very meta, really. Plus, not having to police their brand standards around the world sounds like it can only be a good thing. That just leaves them to focus on making their product all the more amazing.
And whether you see paperclips, vaginas or something else in their new logo, marketers everywhere will likely applaud and envy this approach.
Caroline Krediet is Partner, Strategy at Figliulo&Partners