Living like a Local with Airbnb

Ben Kendall and Iska Lupton told us at our latest Clearing event how Airbnb is turning travel on its head by using community insiders to craft urban experiences.


For those that don’t know, it all started in 2008 with three blow up airbeds plus a nice bit of breakfast. Founders Brian, Nathan and Joe rented out the floor of their living room to three guests in order to capitalize on an accommodation shortage across the city. Fast forward 9 years and Airbnb is now a community marketplace serving 150million guests in 191 counties with over 3million listings.


With numbers like that you wonder how experiences and community can still be at the heart of the Airbnb brand, but Ben tells us the brand is built on the currency of storytelling – the memories you create from the moment you open the door to someone else’s home to the unknown neighborhood waiting to be discovered.


It’s this neighborhood that Airbnb now want to unlock with their new ‘Trips’ platform – with visitors being able to book experiences with ‘community insiders’ who will show them a side of the city they might not otherwise experience. From grime studio’s in Newham, market stalls in Tooting or a violin tour in Paris, Ben tells us it’s about unlocking the communities that are hard to know if you don’t know someone there.


With homes and city experiences at the core of the brand, it’s no surprise they have invested in marketing partnerships that dramatise the Airbnb experience, such as the ‘Inside out’ House with Pantone. As Creative Producer at Bompas & Parr, Iska Lupton has spent that past two years creating multi-sensory experiences, so was best placed to curate the pop-up in Clerkenwell, transforming the house into an indoor-outdoor tropical forest, all in Pantone 15-0343.
All experiences were curated from the community – wallpaper making classes, handmade tea bags and the local gardening club supplying hydroponics. Guests could forage for the leaves for their evening cuppa from vertical herb gardens or take a shower with live stick insects for company.


Iska left us with her top 10 tips to create ‘experiences on steroids’ – we loved her fresh take on more traditional experiential concepts:


  1. Layer up: being brave enough to not actually divulge each detail, allow them to be discovered
  2. Add another dimension: go full-on sensory overload for the ‘what the?’ affect
  3. A question of time: forget a booked time-slot, let guests get lost, and take time for reflection without the pressure of being moved on
  4. Activity over Awks: what happens when you seat two strangers at a table with a Stanley knife? Crafty stuff, that’s what.
  5. Make them LOL: Use actors as hosts to add humour and break the ice on arrival
  6. Community Vibez: tap into community experts to showcase the brands DNA
  7. Go Big: Don’t scrimp on detail; Iska used 18 real trees, newly cut logs and 700kg of woodchip to create an authentic environment
  8. Feed and Water them: But find clever ways to get visitors to ingest the brand (those tea bags again)
  9. Ear we go: Play with perspective when it comes to sound, be generous and leave guests with the soundtrack
  10. The nose knows: Smells evoke memories powerfully, so use authentic smells to heighten the environment


We were left in no doubt that Airbnb is leading the industry in terms of putting community experiences at the heart of the marketing mix – and we’ll be watching with interest as they take the next step towards becoming a one-stop shop travel experience provider.