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Stories spell success for Airbnb

News, 26 March 2015

AUSTIN, TX: Airbnb, the online accommodation rental service, has benefitted from basing its core brand mission on storyboards which outline what "great trips" should look like.

Joe Zadeh, Airbnb's director of product, discussed this subject while speaking at South By Southwest (SXSW) 2015 in Austin, Texas.

And he reported that the approach of formulating storyboards enabled the digital service to picture both what people look for when renting rooms or properties, and the ideal scenario for individuals who list places to stay.

"We ended up with a guest story … that goes from end to end," Zadeh said. (For more, including five lessons from the storyboarding process, read Warc's exclusive report: How Snow White inspired Airbnb's brand strategy.)

"So it starts with that moment of wanderlust, when somebody is considering the idea of travelling, to taking their trip, and then returning from their trip and then sharing memories with their friends."

Equally, its "host story" covers everything from how they learn of Airbnb, thinking about participating, uploading a listing, receiving their first guest, leaving a review and repeating the exercise.

"The storyboard shows … the reality you want to create. And sure, some of those things are going to be incredibly difficult and some of those things will be incredibly easy," said Zadeh.

"And this has become the canonical vision of Airbnb. This is what we focus on: we focus on providing great trips. And that is a long-enduring vision that does not change."

One particular advantage of pursuing this approach, Zadeh told the SXSW delegates, was that it means the organisation's eyes stay firmly on the customer.

"Using storyboards for your vision has the really strong benefit of keeping you customer-focused, not company-focused," said Zadeh.

"There are no charts up to the right; there's no 'We're going to dominate market share'. There's no company metrics. This is a story about people. And I think your vision needs to be customer-centric and start with people."

Data sourced from Warc