Airbnb has expanded its business with ‘Experiences’—that’s experience with a capital “E.” The brand has put a stake in the ground when it comes to providing customized excursions. With Experiences customers can book activities with local guides or multi-day trips with professional companies—all verified by Airbnb. The addition of the Experiences offering gives Airbnb a major leg-up when working to influence a customer’s choice in booking companies.
The success of Experiences has seen Airbnb focus on three principles essential for creating a successful brand experience—all of which help build brand trust. These three principles can be leveraged by any company to elevate the quality of its own brand experiences.
1. Rather Than Facilitating Experiences, Help Create Them
Airbnb has carved out a recognizable brand in the world of short-term vacation rentals but, like many of its competitors, its offerings were completely dependent on hosts and their properties. By expanding into Experiences the brand can achieve greater impact on a customer’s trip. No longer entirely at the mercy of hosts, Airbnb can now be the driver in its own brand growth and perception.
Moreover, by curating these outings, Airbnb is able to claim a unique title for itself. More than ever, travelers want authentic adventures but don’t want to run the risk of picking something off the beaten path and then have it not live up to their expectations. By building on the brand trust, which Airbnb has worked hard to establish, the brand is able to help eliminate those fears and through this unique offering becomes not only the trusted option, but the only choice in its industry.
Enabling consumers to do more, even outside of the brand, builds credibility for the brand itself. Providing options for wider brand integration helps consumers to see the potential in a product and visualize how to incorporate a brand into their own environment, which is usually half the battle when trying to recruit new customers.
2. Give Control to Consumers
Creating successful brand experiences at scale can often involve a paradox, the smaller the event, the more customized to the consumer it can be; the larger the event, the more standardized it can become. Airbnb has broken that mold by being able to provide unique adventures on a large scale.
It helps, of course, that Airbnb Experiences spans cities around the world allowing options to be specialized for each location. It’s also beneficial that Airbnb has partners who can lift the burden of creating and managing the activities. But the most important aspect in the success of these interactions is that customers have total control over their adventure. Airbnb helps lead them to a journey and then gets out of the way. The consumers are running the show and because of it, the opportunities are endless.
Brands should keep this is mind when developing their own experiences. Manufacturing a specific path that visitors have to take when interacting with a brand is extremely limiting and makes for a forgettable exchange. But opening up the options and giving consumers a variety of choices can enable them to see the possibilities and have a much more memorable experience.
3. Give Customers More Ways to Love Your Brands
Previously, Airbnb had a clear period of consumer opportunity—every time someone went on vacation they could check out Airbnb. But what about the rest of the time? Airbnb solved that problem. It gave consumers a reason to come back to it even if they didn’t use Airbnb on their latest trip and even if they’re not in the market for a trip at all! Anyone can book an experience in one of the participating cities, even if they live there.
Airbnb has now successfully pulled in additional steps on the customer’s journey with the brand. It has identified pain points and built opportunities for the brand to be the solution. This is repeatable no matter the industry. Find the pain point and then demonstrate the solution. By doing this, Airbnb is actively giving consumers a reason to choose it, not just once or twice a year but all year round.
Not every brand activation is going to completely change a consumer perspective, but every single one should be built around increasing trust and affinity for the brand. That’s what Airbnb did. First, it found an opportunity to expand its business offerings by providing a solution for an existing consumer problem. Second, it showcased this solution by creating unique adventures that were completely controlled by the customer. And third, it enhanced consumer experiences outside of the traditional brand. By doing this, Airbnb created reasons for consumers to not just prefer the brand but to actively choose it.
So, the next time your brand wants to engage with consumers, ask yourself these three important questions: Are you creating a memorable experience? Are you offering the control of the experience to your consumer? Are you giving your customers more ways to love your brand? If you can answer with a resounding “yes!” to each of these questions, you’re on the right track and on the way to a successful and unique brand experience for your customers—and for your business.
Carrie Mahoney is a strategist at Jack Morton Worldwide. She can be reached at Carrie_Mahoney@jackmorton.com.