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Airbnb: The Idea That Caught Fire in the Travel Industry

March 26, 2024
Airbnb: The Idea That Caught Fire in the Travel Industry

Airbnb is an online website and mobile application that lets travelers book homes, vacation rentals, short-term rentals, and other types of rental properties. The difference between Airbnb and other platforms? Airbnb rents out people’s homes, from moderate condos on the beach to stately homes in the countryside. This provides more convenient, cost-friendly, and unique experiences.

Airbnb coins its name from the term “Air Bed and Breakfast.” This comes from their opening, when the founders first rented air mattresses in their apartment to individuals attending a local conference. Now, the platform serves thousands of hosts and guests spread across 100,000 cities worldwide. It offers many unique properties, including those in amusement parks, historical places, movie features, and more.

Airbnb is a game-changing company within the travel industry, providing distinctive experiences across the globe. As of this year, Airbnb has a net worth of $101.88 billion. Learn more about the Airbnb brand and its journey to success at MarcomCenteral.

How Did It All Begin?

The story of Airbnb begins in Brian Chesky’s and Joe Gebbia’s apartment in San Francisco. Broke and looking to earn money to make rent, they saw an opportunity. A local conference was to be held in the area that weekend, and all hotels were booked. So, the pair decided to rent out air mattresses at their own apartment. They cleverly named this service “Air Bed and Breakfast.”

Since then, Chesky and Gebbia have developed the brand into an industry-changing platform. They eventually enlisted the help of co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk and now have more than three million homes spanning over 200 countries. Today, the company is worth more than big-name hotel brands like Hilton and Wyndham.

However, Airbnb had many hurdles before becoming a massive success. People struggled to accept the idea of staying in strangers’ homes. Many highlighted the dangers of doing so if the platform got into the wrong hands. This caused many investors to pass on funding in 2008.

To gain traction in the travel community, Airbnb invested in their listings. For example, they catered to those staying in Denver for former President Obama’s Democratic National Convention Center. They also went to their existing listings and took professional, high-quality photos of their spaces.

Creating a New Way to Travel

Airbnb creates unique and easy travel experiences in the homes they rent, which has set them apart from their competitors. Other reasons travelers choose Airbnb include:

  • Authenticity and Uniqueness: Part of the Airbnb experience is the ability to access unique accommodations. These homes often reflect the area’s character and culture more than traditional hotels. With Airbnb, guests can stay in boats, treehouses, tiny homes, as well as castles. This creates a more personalized, authentic travel experience.
  • Belonging and Community: Those who use Airbnb access a community of travelers and hosts who share the same goal. In the app, Airbnb hosts can share recommendations and tips with others. This fosters a sense of community and promotes the local culture. Travelers see this and are more encouraged to book a reservation.
  • Value and Affordability: One of the biggest advantages of using Airbnb is its affordability over traditional hotels. This is especially true for groups looking to stay together or those traveling to unique lodgings. Airbnb offers an affordable way for all guests to stay together under one roof.
  • Flexibility and Choice: Another notable advantage of Airbnb is its user-friendly mobile application and online platforms. Airbnb makes it easy to filter suggestions based on many preferences. For example, travelers can filter suggestions based on budget, location, and amenities.
  • Innovation and Technology: Airbnb’s technology has set them apart from others, offering easy ways for travelers to book accommodations. Users can book accommodations, communicate with hosts, conduct payments, and write reviews from one platform. They continually update their technology to meet changing travel trends.

Airbnb widely considered technology during its making. The company understood that they were dealing with people looking to book stays for all kinds of travel. They also understood that the hosts were not particularly business-savvy but wanted to earn extra income. That’s why Airbnb invested in an easy-to-use website, making it convenient for their target market to register, list, and track their bookings.

  • Sustainability and Social Impact: Airbnb is committed to sustainability and social impact, which many travelers prioritize while traveling. The platform allows the company to support local hosts and communities directly.


“I think the key that makes Airbnb is the fact that we’re a community, not just a series of commodities.”

–       Brian Chesky, Co-Founder of Airbnb

How Airbnb Has Used Marketing to Scale to Unimaginable Heights

Brian Chesky describes Airbnb as a way for travelers to gain a better sense of local cultures and save money on traveling. This idea is what has helped them gain traction in the hospitality industry. Using this focus, Airbnb implemented several digital marketing initiatives, including:

Utilizing Video On A Whole New Level

Airbnb takes a unique approach with its ad-building marketing tactics, utilizing video to evoke emotions and encourage users to stay with Airbnb. Their advertisements are played during high-volume times, like sports games, award shows, or season premiers. This increases the amount of people who view their ads.

The next element of Airbnb’s advertising is the types of ads they put out. They use fun animated graphics and nostalgic photos of real people making memorable experiences with their families. This evokes emotions from watchers, allowing them to picture their own family vacation in an Airbnb.

Their ads also highlight the value of staying in an Airbnb versus a traditional hotel. It showcases that Airbnbs offers one unified space for families to gather and spend time together. Each family member can still have their own room, offering a hotel-like experience at a fraction of the cost.

Airbnb also makes these ads available online through their own YouTube channel. These videos are titled, “Get an Airbnb.” They also include host instructions in a section labeled “Airbnb it.” This ensures information is accessible.

Ad Sequencing

Airbnb also uses ad sequencing in its YouTube video marketing efforts. This is seen in its campaign for Airbnb Adventures. To create the ads, the company invited six strangers to Oman. They filmed the travelers throughout their adventures and used the footage to create short ads. This showed potential travelers authentic travel experiences.

Airbnb then used YouTube’s ad sequencing feature to tell a story through these video ad campaigns. This resulted in a positive outcome for Airbnb, including: 

  • Generating 8 million impressions 
  • 50% increase in ad recall 
  • 22% increase in purchase intent 
  • Higher conversion rate 

User-Generated Content

Because Airbnb offers location-based services, this gives them the perfect opportunity to utilize user-generated content (UGC). User-generated content is the content users and bloggers produce and post on social media, online, and other platforms.

The content becomes easily shareable using hashtags, location tags, and more. This promotes visibility because those who click the hashtags and location tags can see all posts within that category, including Airbnb properties. Additionally, posts are shared with the user’s followers across many social media platforms. This increases the amount of traffic to an Airbnb listing.

Social Media

Airbnb has taken to social media to market in other ways besides user-generated content. For example, they started the #OneLessStranger social experiment, where people were encouraged to conduct random acts of kindness for strangers and post about their stories online. This increased the viewership of Airbnb’s YouTube video advertising. This type of social media marketing is also perfectly aligned with Airbnb branding as a whole – to foster community and belonging.

Airbnb also did a short social media campaign focusing on Marnie the Dog, a doggy influencer, to celebrate National Dog Week in the U.S. The project followed Marnie the Dog around a Beverly Hills mansion, receiving VIP treatment. The goal of this type of influencer marketing was to boost engagement around their pet-friendly listings.

Content Marketing and SEO

How Airbnb uses its content marketing strategy is another aspect that separates it from competitors. Airbnb consistently produces stories, listicles, blog posts, and email marketing content. These articles cover a range of topics, from travel planning to understanding good hosting practices. Airbnb uses an extensive internal linking technique for user-generated content.

Airbnb also offers its own travel magazine to users called Pineapple. This magazine covers a variety of topics about travel and features travel stories. It’s filled with stunning photographs and imagery of the different lodging spaces and provides more tips for subscribers.

Airbnb’s content marketing business model involves a specific tone of voice. They evoke a sense of community by using thoughtful and inclusive language. Airbnb also leverages off-site search engine optimization (SEO) through its YouTube content creation strategy. 

Referral Program

Airbnb offers a referral program for travelers looking to save costs. It provides a travel credit when users refer friends or family to an Airbnb. The person who referred the other receives a $25 travel credit, while the person who was referred gets $25 off their stay. This program was designed to provide potential guests with further savings. This is something that Airbnb knows its target audience values. The results are more visibility on properties, increased bookings, new users, and trust-building from travelers.

Local Partnerships

To make the hosting process convenient and the traveler experience positive, Airbnb has many local partnerships. These partnerships assist hosts and give them resources for: 

  • Managing and cleaning properties
  • Professional photography
  • Providing smooth guest experiences

Service providers must officially list as partners with Airbnb, meaning hosts receive quality, professional recommendations and collaborations.

What Can We Learn From Airbnb’s Marketing Strategy?

Airbnb’s marketing strategy tells us the importance of the traveler experience while maintaining brand identity. They have successfully implemented effective marketing campaigns aligning with their values as a company, which has kept travelers returning. Their dedication to the traveler experience has made Airbnb a staple in the travel market.

MarcomCentral offers insights and assistance with marketing strategies, helping businesses to become organized and craft better campaigns and digital marketing strategies. For other stories like this Airbnb case study, sign up for our newsletter. You can also schedule a demo to partner with MarcomCentral.