Airbnb shifts from mass to targeted marketing as brands urged to confront ‘uncomfortable truths’

Airbnb is no longer looking simply for reach in its marketing and will increasingly seek a more targeted approach from its agency partners, the online home rental site has said.

Speaking at Mumbrella’s CommsCom conference in Sydney this morning, Airbnb global PR lead Dylan Smith said as the company matures, the use of reach as a key measurement will diminish.


“There have been times when the sheer volume of coverage is the KPI but increasingly that is not the case,” he said.

The shift follows Airbnb’s continued expansion with the creation of additional product. It will soon launch Beyond by Airbnb targeting the luxury sector following the acquisition last year of Luxury Retreats.

“Those of us who work in-house are always talking to agencies about how do we measures success,” Smith told delegates. “It’s a conversation I have upfront on any campaign we work on. As the company grows and we mature we realise there are other ways to measure success, not just sheer volume, so the type of news outlet, the readers.

“Certainly when it comes to the launch of Beyond by Airbnb sheer volume will not be the KPI. The luxury media is a very niche one but it unlocks a great deal of people will want to reach.”

Earlier, the San Francisco-based Australian admitted he was “no stranger” to dealing with negative headlines.

Asked how he dealt with such coverage, Smith said it was important to confront media “honestly and in a straightforward way”.

“When things go wrong, and they do as we are a reflection of society – things go wrong in hotels, they go wrong all over the world – firstly we move fast to make it right, we make sure there are teams to correct anything that does wrong and we are very plain in our language with journalists.

“We share with them what is it we are doing, and how it is going to fix it.”

He stressed that while negative stories command big headline, less than 1% of stays result in any dispute or problem.

Earlier, Smith urged brands not to hide issues or barriers to growth but to confront them and work around them.

Detailing Airbnb’s growth where it identified barriers including people’s natural suspicion of staying with strangers and a concern about the quality of some accommodation, Smith said it was important “to be true to yourself and your brand”.

“Lean into your uncomfortable truths,” Smith concluded. “Don’t move around them, take them, own them and explain them. Let it be part of your story.”


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