How I Transformed The Company Into A Super Brand in Just 18 Months

By Azleen Abdul Rahim

A few days ago I was reading this interesting journey of Jonathan Mildenhall, Airbnb’s new CMO on how he transformed the company into a Super Brand in just 18 months. Katie Richards wrote this story for Adweek and you can find the original article right here.

Long story short, Jonathan Mildenhall was approached and hired by Airbnb’s CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky 18 months ago, to work for him as a CMO and leave Coca-Cola. Speaking at the National Advertisers Masters of Marketing Annual Conference in Orlando, he shared that the move was a skeptical one at first. He also shared his strategy and some challenges he’s faced on the road to building a super brand ground up. He knew he needed to look to some of the leading brands in the world, citing Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Disney and Virgin as sources of inspiration. But copying them wouldn’t cut it.

Airbnb had a great challenge, which idea of staying in a stranger’s home, or allowing a stranger to stay in your home, and that is scary. What if someone steals your jewellery, harms you, provides you with dirty accommodations? These serious questions spurred Mildenhall’s marketing strategy.That led to the brand’s very first Never a Stranger campaign. They cast a single white female who wants to travel the world alone as the lead. Take a look at the video. “As a marketer I think it’s really, really important that you lean into the uncomfortable truth,” Mildenhall said.

Short story shorter, here’s what I learn from Mildenhall’s strategy:

Get The Audience To Know What You Do. Airbnb ensures that the audience knows them first and what they do.

Highlight The Concern. He highlighted top two challenges Airbnb owns with the audience – staying with strangers and security issues that comes with it.

Share The Message Clearly With A Story. He decided to pick an angle of a single lady and use her point of view to address the concern of the audience, on strangers and security.

Use A Short But Sweet Video. Unlike images and articles, with video, the message can be easily understood. It goes straight into our brains without having to process the message too much. And Airbnb brilliantly share the entire message across within a minute or so. When you checked out the video above, you’re able to relate yourself to the situation and thus perfectly understand how Airbnb takes care of it.

Involved The Support Of Backend Processes and Business Model Flexibility. The marketing campaign obviously need to have a strong support from the back, namely at the operations level as well as corporate planning. When Never A Stranger campaign idea was first mulled, I can safely say that certain policy of Airbnb were slightly modified to ensure the execution of the idea will be a big success. It paid off pretty good in the end. Imagine if Airbnb practices a strict and rigid business model, do you think Mildenhall’s marketing Never A Stranger campaign is going to work? I guess not.