Tag Archives: brand in adolescence

Airbnb’s Wild Ride

Airbnb billboard saying "We imagine a world where can belong anywhere." brand in adolescence positioning

Image source: underconsideration.com

From the moment my eighth grade French teacher informed me that you could study abroad in college I knew I was going to France.

Six years later I spent the summer preceding my junior year at a program in Avignon and the fall semester in Paris. I traveled for the two months in between.

To say that trip bolstered my love for most things French would be an understatement. Since that inaugural trip I’ve been back seven times for vacation and to maintain some ability to speak French.

In 2013 I decided that my teenage kids were finally old enough to appreciate a trip to Paris and began planning our vacation for April 2014.

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know the hotel rooms are usually smaller and more expensive than in the U.S. I could not imagine booking two hotel rooms for our family of four for the seven nights we were going to be there.

I had heard of people renting Parisians’ apartments instead of hotel rooms, so my husband Dan and I researched those opportunities. We settled on an apartment in Le Marais, a section of the fourth arrondissement in Paris, listed on VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner).

The apartment had three different sleeping spaces, a small kitchen, a dining area and one and a half bathrooms.

The rental cost about $153 per night. Less than the rate for one hotel room, let alone two.

In advance of our trip, the owner, Gomez, sent a 21-page welcome guide that detailed everything from how to work the internet and washing machine to places of interest to restaurant recommendations. She even included a walking tour with photos.

When we arrived we relied on her recommendations extensively. “Miss Manon” became our go-to bakery. Her directions to the closest farm stand and to Monoprix helped us procure berries, milk and juice. We enjoyed our breakfast each morning in her sunlit glass-enclosed dining room.

We dined at Au Bouquet Saint Paul and Le Petit Saint Paul, two of her favorite restaurants.

Quickly the neighborhood became familiar, cherished terrain. By the third day, I felt like I had a pied-à-terre on rue Saint Paul.

What began as a cost-saving measure blossomed into a vacation-enriching experience.

I’d rent an apartment on my next trip just to get to know another neighborhood and have that feeling of belonging despite being away from home.

A Billion Dollar Business is Born to Pay the Rent

It’s this desire to belong away from home that Airbnb, another sharing-economy home-rental service, has seized as a core brand attribute. But it didn’t start out that way.

Like most brands, Airbnb was born to solve a problem.

Airbnb first logo in its brand evolution

Image source: Europeantravellingadvisor.wordpress.com

Founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, Rhode Island School of Design graduates, were living in San Francisco in late 2007 trying to become entrepreneurs when their landlord suddenly raised their rent. They didn’t have the money to pay it.

They hatched the idea of putting air mattresses on their floor to offer lodging and breakfast to designers coming in for an Industrial Design conference as the city’s hotels were fully booked.

They quickly put up AirBedandBreakfast.com, charged $80 per person per night, and got three boarders to help pay their rent.

The idea of providing overflow lodging in homes during large conferences appealed to them. They took on a third partner, technical whiz Nathan Blecharczyk, and officially launched for the South by Southwest conference in early 2008 but gained only two bookings.

They retooled their website and tried again for the Democratic National Conference in August 2008. At this point they were seeking more funding, so along with securing 600 listings they also sold Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain cereals which they created for the convention.

The cereal sales totaled $30,000. But the home-rental business was dependent on large conventions, so it floundered.

Airbnb Pivots

People who had used their service were asking to use it for non-convention purposes. The founders visited hosts in New York City and then broadened their listings from shared spaces (the owners were home) for convention lodging to any type of home accommodation for any reason. They changed the name of the company to Airbnb.com.

That’s when the brand took off.

Fast forward to 2013. Five years in, the company had 300,000 listings and was booking over 12 million guest nights a year.

At that point Airbnb had an early brand adolescence. The homestay concept had proven successful and competitors appeared. Airbnb started thinking about how to differentiate the brand.

Rebranding Based on Insights

Douglas Atkin, Airbnb’s new global head of community at the time, commissioned interviews and focus groups with 485 members of Airbnb’s constituencies all over the world – guests, hosts and employees. His research yielded the insight that people yearned to belong wherever they went.

Helping people “belong anywhere” became the brand’s mission and a key brand attribute.

But Evelyn, you say, you got that belonging feeling from VRBO. How can Airbnb claim to own that?

Well, Airbnb was the first to lay claim to it. And it went all in on the belonging concept.

The company hosts conventions for their hosts and provides support to help them feel that they belong in the Airbnb community. It provides host forums so that hosts can communicate and help each other. It offers guidelines on how to help guests feel like they belong.

Now Airbnb is trying to take the belonging differentiation to the next level.

It’s newest service, called Trips, offers unique insider experiences such as learning and tasting the difference between sake and shochu liquors with a certified shochu sommelier in Tokyo. Or touring the farmer’s market and Ferry Building and learning to make perfect pasta with the owner of Baia Pasta restaurant in San Francisco.

Brand Evolution Can Be a Wild Ride

Consider the evolution of the Airbnb brand.

Airbnb started as an emergency solution to pay rent and evolved through stages from conference overflow lodging to vacation homestay lodging to a way to “belong anywhere.”

I’ve taken you on Airbnb’s brand journey to highlight that how a brand starts is rarely how it grows and thrives. On its journey the founder’s initial idea morphs in the minds of the brand’s constituencies. And in the service of building a viable business.

Maybe Airbnb’s journey seems like a wild ride to you, but brand evolution is hard to foresee and often takes unexpected turns.

The constant in the journey is the brand’s adherence to solving its constituents’ problem. Even when the problem the founder originally identified doesn’t pan out.

Overflow conference lodging alone could not support Airbnb, but homestay offered something that kept both hosts and guests coming back. Airbnb identified that something as the desire to belong.

If a brand is to succeed, brand owners and management have to understand what problem the brand solves for its constituents from the constituents’ point of view.

This often happens with brands in adolescence as they have evolved to a business-sustaining revenue point, but the brand officers don’t know why customers choose their brand over competitors. Successful brands understand what problem they solve for their constituents and can articulate their differentiation.

Airbnb has navigated their brand adolescence well.

Has your brand journey arrived there yet?

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Will Zagat Fly or Fade?

Zagats Boston Guide Brand in Adolescence At Risk of Not MaturingBefore I started writing monthly newsletters four years ago, I wrote restaurant reviews.  Just one or two a year for Zagat’s Boston Restaurant Guide.  One contributed review was enough to score me a free copy of the next guide release and seemed well worth the effort.

When Zagat first launched its guide in the early 1980s it was unique. It provided succinct reviews and ratings from patrons instead of critics.  This was revolutionary in the 1980s.

Like many new products, the Zagat guide emerged from the recognition of an unmet market need.  read more

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Whole Foods Frays Organically

Whole Foods Responsibly Grown LogoHave you ever wished for a personal chef?

Well for two months I had one.

In autumn 1999, after years of working as a chef on yachts, in restaurants and on catering gigs, my sister-in-law Rachael decided to transition to a new career:  web master.  Her transition involved relocating to the Boston area and earning Microsoft certifications.

Rachael moved to her parents’ house in Needham while she studied for her certifications and waited for her new Watertown condo to be ready.  Her parents decided to move to Cape Cod two months before her move-in date though.  So my husband Dan and I invited her to live with us. read more

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Don’t You Forget About Your Brand

Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club, before and after her makeover.

Image source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/sarag17/the-best-and-worst-tvmovie-makeovers-7gd5

This past March marked the 30th anniversary of the movie The Breakfast Club

For those of you who might not know it, the movie portrays the gathering of five stereotypical high schoolers (a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal) for a day-long detention on a Saturday.  Over the course of the day, social barriers recede.  The teenagers share insights that both explain their stereotypes and undermine them at the same time.

The movie struck a chord with adolescents everywhere when it was released, and continues to engage succeeding generations.  My husband and I watched it with our teenagers a couple of years ago. read more

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Life is Good Goes for Grand

Original Jake drawing from Life is Good, brand in adolescence

Original Jake Drawing
Image source: lifeisgood.com

While many families chose warm weather destinations for the February school vacation, my son AJ and I took a road trip to Vermont and upstate New York.  No, we are not skiers.

Why would we choose a subzero-temperature week to travel to these northern locales?

To look at colleges.

AJ is a junior in high school.  Though he will not be applying to colleges until next fall, we are visiting now so that he will know where he wants to apply then. read more

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What a Croc

Crocs in all rainbow colors

Image source: naturalrezources.com

I was a persistent child.  How persistent?  Let’s just say that several times during my childhood my father wished, “May you have a child just like you.”

Well, I did.  Two of them.

On a Monday in early January 2004 my daughter Fiona came home from preschool and demanded to know when we were going to Disney World.  Several of her friends had gone during the December break, so when were we going?  My husband Dan and I just smiled and said we did not know.

She inquired again on Tuesday.  On Thursday.  On Saturday.  On Sunday.  Our 5-year-old son AJ began asking as well. read more

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Totally Tubular

Image source: Scott Products | Facebook

Image source: Scott Products | Facebook

I never knew toilet paper could be exciting until I met Dave.

Dave joined me in the Veryfine Marketing Research Department in the early days of 1993 after a two-year stint at James River, maker of Quilted Northern bathroom tissue.  He entertained us with stories of the brand’s relaunch the year before.  Segmentation studies had characterized different types of toilet-tissue users.  Press releases detailing the segments had persuaded radio personalities to talk about the product.

Clearly James River employees and their marketing agencies had both great creativity and a good sense of humor. read more

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Driving Miss Millennial

Buick-LeSabre-280x172Last Wednesday, my husband Dan and I took a two-hour course on the Massachusetts junior operator driving laws with hints on how to teach our son AJ to drive.

Like every other childhood milestone, approaching this one for my son conjures memories of my own experience.  Being the eldest child in my family, I believe it was my driving education that caused my father’s first gray hairs. read more

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When Brands Go Too Far

Strange-Brandfellows-Claritin-Mattress-Protector-225x300My husband Dan is a champion shopper.

When we identify a need in the household, it goes on Dan’s mental list.  He doesn’t like to let his list stagnate.  He begins to keep an eye out for the item and to research it.  Before long, he’s able to give you an outline of the choices available and each choice’s defining features.

Having Dan’s shopping prowess in the family is a huge advantage.  It makes the difference between thinking about a potential purchase to improve the house and actually making it.  One of Dan’s recent quests resulted in a fabulous new refrigerator.  read more

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Tell Me A Brand Time Story

cropped-veryfine-book-pic-246x300I love to write.  I’ve been writing since I was 15 years old.  I owe my discovery of this passion to my brother Ken.  (Thank you Ken!!)

Ken is nearly six years younger than I am.  When he was nine years old, he gave me a small journal for Hanukkah.  It was about five by four inches and had a gold and white cover.  I was so charmed that he would spend some of his allowance to buy me a gift – we didn’t usually exchange among siblings at that point. read more

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