What does a New Age Brand look like?
The marketing ecosystem is filled with conversations and many of them relevant ones about case studies,trends,tools,analytics,stakeholders etc.But one conversation we somehow take for granted is a critical one & the seed for the rest : “What does a new age brand look like?’. Because unless we know the ideal we are striving for it’s pointless to keep talking about other things.
And a description beyond a fancy tagline or award winning campaign or a brand logo. A living breathing description defined by the actions a brand takes in today’s day of brand-consumer interaction.From a customer perspective,from an employee perspective & obviously from a marketing perspective.
So I thought I would make an effort at describing it via one new age brand-Airbnb:
It typically has a reason beyond profits to exist & the best brands don't sell to everyone .
A number of people probably don't identify with it & the brand is fine with it.
It doesn’t celebrate this but neither tries to change its core to cater to wider customer base.It’s not rigid in it’s beliefs but brave in the stands it takes.It takes feedback from it’s community of consumers,engages in a dialogue and evolves.
It also celebrates diversity.Not trying to fall into narrow demographics of age,gender and geography but more of pyschographics ,because it realizes in a digitally connected world people across two geographies could have more shared beliefs than their immediate neighbours.
As an example, let’s quickly run through something which Airbnb did in 2017 :
1-Trump questioned taking immigrants from certain countries and called them shithole countries
2-As a response Airbnb released this ad talking about this ‘expletive filled interest’ #weaccept .
Reflecting two traits of a new age brand-listening & taking a brave stand when needed.
3-Making actionable marketing campaigns
I just saw this lovely ad by Samsonite. Where it fails is that it doesn't go beyond the hashtag,creative & tagline .It doesn’t tell us,rather show us what it’s actually doing.
4-And the CEO joined in :Brian Chesky
Building a new age brand can’t be restricted to an ad but key stakeholders sharing the same ethos,even when its not too easy.
5.Beyond consumer,founder & a marketing campaign it’s own internal culture has reflected the same belief #weaccept
New age brands share the same values externally as well as internally & their marketing campaigns have a life beyond a few weeks .This video was made in celebration of LGBTQ pride using the same hashtag #weaccept
6. Gone beyond a short term campaign to create a platform
Airbnb created a platform to help refugees and others in need connect with hosts willing to provide temporary housing for free at https://www.airbnb.co.in/openhomes.
This is the critical part about building a brand-going beyond short term tactical solutions & instead looking at long term goals to build a brand.
7.From a hashtag to thought leadership with the same belief
The key to living your vision is seeing that it extends to all aspects of your business including recruitment,training,vendor relationships etc ; so much so that for certain values you are considered a thought leader in the industry.Airbnb marketing led by Jonathan Mildenhall has always done that. He has constantly talked about diversity in the ad industry including at key events like Cannes.
8. Doing the Unpopular and not necessarily emerging as a hero
This may sound like a line from Batman but the key part of building a brand is having a distinct identity. And the surest way to have a distinct identity is to do what you believe in,even when the decision could be highly unpopular.Airbnb has constantly done that,including their decision to take rentals in Israeli West Bank settlements off their website.
“ Many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced” source:Airbnb
9. Failing but keeping at it
That’s the hallmark of a great brand-realizing that they are far from perfect & have quite a few challenges which they need to address.Airbnb has received criticism for some of it’s policies and they have constantly dealt with those in turn evolving as a brand. Even their hallmark , their marketing is pretty average in parts of South East Asia including my own country India,which has allowed players like Oyo to come up & now become global competitors.
In India they played on the mass market stereotypes of using print ads & bollywood celebrities. While delivering massive reach & even engagement this won’t help them to effectively build the metrics that really matter-understanding the brand,increased listings & finally brand love.
And the comments on these ads are proof of that,people talking about only the celebrities and not the brand.Even making fun of the brand
Airbnb is growing in India because there is a huge market in India who loves travelling & they know about travel platforms like Airbnb & Skyscanner.To grow Airbnb doesn’t need to mass target or inform this niche but connect with them!
Or their print ad which wasn’t enough to explain the brand to new customers or convert people who already knew about them.
Airbnb hasn’t quite understood the cultural subtleties of some south east asian countries but the DNA of their brand makes me confident they will.
And that’s what makes the brand great.Not just for now but well poised for the future !