How Snow White inspired Airbnb's brand strategy

Stephen Whiteside

Airbnb's rise to prominence represents the fairy tale ending for almost every start-up – and its guide on much of this journey has been none other than the perfectly-drawn figure of Snow White.

Joe Zadeh, Airbnb's director of product, led delegates at South By Southwest through this corporate fable by taking them back to 2011, when its digital platform had secured a leadership role in renting out individuals' spare rooms and vacant homes – as well as the occasional castle and igloo – to other consumers, and was expanding internationally.

Internally, it had begun discussing possible next steps, with suggestions like sharing cars, offices and small items such as drills. As the senior team broke for the festive holidays, no final decision was reached. By the time they returned, Disney's most famous heroine had enchanted Brian Chesky, Airbnb's chief executive.