Airbnb Raises the Reward from Facts to Feelings

Airbnb Raises the Reward from Facts to Feelings


Airbnb thinks big. Many advertisers think too small when looking for a reward to offer for using their product. Airbnb could have suggested the savings or convenience or some practical benefit that those who use the service might receive. The travel service wisely realizes that there is no need to think so small. Airbnb goes big and offers prospective users not just what those users want from a travel lodging service but what they want out of life. To paraphrase, Daniel Burnham, a 19th-century architect, small rewards have no magic to stir men’s blood.

Airbnb suggests that when travelers book lodging through Airbnb, they will discover how fabulous the world can be when they see it through local eyes.

The site raises its reward from facts to feelings. When people choose, feelings are much more influential.

All experiences with Airbnb will not be fabulous. Users will occasionally but inevitably be disappointed. But expectation changes experience because what we experience depends to a great extent on what we expect to experience. Expectation can make carrots taste better even if the carrots don’t change in any way. Expectation can make a test drive in a Mustang more thrilling even if Mustang manufacturing doesn’t change in any way. And the expectation created by this ad can make a night or two stay in an Airbnb host’s place a little more interesting. An ad like this can improve the experience of the product even if the physical product remains the same.

Viewers quickly realize that the ad is a metaphor. The baby, of course, represents the traveler, and the baby’s eagerness to gaze out the window represents the traveler’s desire to see the world from a new perspective. Metaphor is an effective form of advertising because it breaks the plane. It requires the viewer to enter the ad and participate to understand it. Viewers are eager to participate and enjoy figuring out the meaning of a clever arrangement of images, dialogue, and music. Metaphor engages viewers and enlists them in the message.

Maybe the announcer’s dialogue is over the top. Could a bit of understatement have made the ad even more effective creating the impression that Airbnb doesn’t take itself so seriously? Possibly, but the plusses far outweigh the overblown dialog.

Airbnb thinks big, enhances the traveler’s experience, and enlists the traveler in interpreting the message.

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