Airbnb came along at just the right time to tap into the new millennial consumer mindset and play a key role in the development of the burgeoning sharing economy.
Since its inception in 2008 in the US, the accommodation website has expanded to 190 countries and 34,000 cities. The brand has built a strong presence in Europe; as of March 2015, it had 40,000 active listings in the UK alone.
While much of the company’s growth has come through word of mouth, the brand has rolled out several innovative campaigns with the aim of increasing its user base.
At the beginning of 2015, it ‘gave away’ $1m in an effort to generate ‘random acts of kindness in local communities’. This involved giving $10 each to 100,000 Airbnb members around the world, and asking them to use the money to perform a unique act of kindness, with the aim of reinforcing what Airbnb stands for – bringing people together.
In May, it launched a ‘Floating House’ on the River Thames to celebrate new rules that meant people in the UK could earn a 15% pay rise by sharing their homes for up to 90 days each year through sites like Airbnb.
The brand has also shown its prowess at marketing in the moment. In October 2014, an American tourist got locked into a London branch of book retailer Waterstones after it closed while he browsed – he was released only after tweeting for help and posting a picture of himself behind the shutters. His two-hour ordeal quickly became a trending topic on social media. Airbnb took advantage of the public interest to suggest that Waterstones become an Airbnb host, which resulted in the brands working together to offer 10 people the chance to win a pair of tickets to a sleepover at Waterstones’ Piccadilly store.
This year, Airbnb became one of 21 founding members of Sharing Economy UK, a voluntary trade group intended to champion companies in the UK’s sharing sector. Members of the group will agree to a code of conduct, develop a best-practices certification program, and publish research on issues related to sharing-economy businesses and consumers.