If you’ve ever planned a vacation, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Airbnb. Founded in August of 2008, Airbnb (formerly known as AirBed & Breakfast) began as a way for founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia to make extra bucks for rent. Nine years later, the company has hosted over 160 million guests in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. The secret to their success? Refining their brand identity each step of the way.
Brand identity is how a brand intends to be perceived by its consumers. Brand identity is not to be mistaken with brand image, which is how consumers actually perceive the brand. Your goal should be to align your brand identity and brand image as closely as possible. A large disconnect will only communicate to the public that you’re out of touch with your market.
From your tagline to typeface, your brand identity tells people what your brand is really about. Ultimately, it’s what distinguishes you from the competition. Airbnb does a stellar job in differentiating itself from the rest of the sharing economy by fine-tuning every component of their brand identity.
A vision statement and mission statement are two separate ideas typically combined into one sentence. A mission statement is present-based and tells your consumers your brand’s intention, while a vision statement is future-based and tells your consumers what you hope to accomplish with your mission. Together, these statements should inform and inspire. Airbnb aspires to create a diverse and inclusive global community (mission) where people can feel at home wherever they are (vision). They creatively communicate this with just two words: belong anywhere.
Before adopting the slogan “belong anywhere,” Airbnb’s message was to “travel like a human.” The change came to light in 2014, when Chesky and Gebbia realized that Airbnb was more than a tool people used to travel.
“It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong”, explained Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. “And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere.”
Airbnb’s short and sweet mission proves that less is often more. Such a concise statement strengthens their brand identity by being easy to remember and highly recognizable.
Airbnb’s logo hasn’t always looked the way it is now. The logo change also occurred in 2014, accompanying the switch from “travel like a human” to ” belong anywhere.” The Airbnb logo is a fluid marriage of four principles—people, places, love and Airbnb—represented by a single abstract “A” shape. This symbol of belonging, coined “Bélo,” highlights Airbnb’s message of standing for something much grander than travel. Additionally, in line with color psychology, their logo uses a pink-red hue to convey a sense of love and nurture.
If there’s anything central to your brand identity, it’s your logo. Think about the world’s top three brands (Apple, Google, and Coca-Cola) and refer to their simplicity. A simple logo is essentially an open canvas for your consumers; it gives them the ability to fill their perception of your brand with positive experiences. On another note, a simple logo also comes with the ability to look great on all varieties of material, from flyers to billboards. Airbnb’s minimalistic logo can be drawn by anyone, and like their slogan, recognized anywhere.
Straight and simple, Airbnb’s success comes from their message. The same goes for the aforementioned big brands, Apple, Google, and Coca-Cola. Customers are attracted to the brands they share values with. Airbnb’s essence of humanity has created strong and emotional brand associations, in turn putting the company and its product at the forefront of consumer minds. Adding sentiment to your identity increases the chances of people thinking of your brand or business when considering options (remember Taco Bell’s strategy of adding sentiment?).
In addition to their slogan and logo, Airbnb’s features also put their message of belonging in the spotlight. Not only can users book somewhere to stay, but they can craft their entire trip with the assistance of the “Experiences” and “Places” pages. Experiences can range from anywhere between two hours or a couple of days and can be anything from a pottery class to sleeping under the stars. Through the “Places” section, you can find the best tacos or most scenic hikes near your destination. These features eliminate the idea that Airbnb only finds a bed for you to sleep in.
By polishing each component of your brand identity, you can ensure your brand is consistent and one to remember. Can you think of other brands with a solid identity? Let’s hear your favorite!