Airbnb: Building the World's Most Multi-Cultural Brand

December 7, 2017

By Nick Primola



Since it launched in 2008, Airbnb has grown from a single San Francisco-based operation to a global brand that's disrupting a traditional industry. The company has taken advantage of its unique position to take a stand for diversity and inclusion. For the ANA CMO Talent Challenge Playbook released earlier this year, Jonathan Mildenhall, then-CMO, shared insights into how the company has built a multicultural brand and lives its commitment internally. Here's what he had to say:


Our mission at Airbnb is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, and that applies equally to our employees ("Airfam"), hosts, and their guests. We have been on the forefront of embracing inclusion since inception, and with each passing year and further explosive growth, we are exceptionally mindful of including all the cultures we serve.

In just nine years, we have grown from a single apartment in San Francisco to more than 3.5 million homes in 65,000 cities across 191 countries. Because our company mission is centered around "belonging," it is imperative that we foster an environment of diversity and inclusion both internally and externally with all those who use our platform. Internally, our Airfam represent our values of acceptance, inclusion, kindness, and trust. These are the values we promote through our brand marketing so that those outside the company can understand the values we expect every traveler and host to live by. If we are to become the world's first community-driven superbrand, it is vital that the employee experiences, the brand promise, and the host and guest experience are all utterly aligned across all channels, geographies, and cultures.

The Airbnb brand experience started literally in the home of our three co-founders when they decided to rent out three air mattresses during a design conference that had created a scarcity of hotel rooms in San Francisco. As young entrepreneurs, they had a vision to provide affordable, comfortable, temporary accommodation for people looking for a more local experience, irrespective of demographics or socio-political preferences.

This accepting, all-inclusive mentality translates into everything we do internally and externally. We provide every opportunity for members of our Airfam to meet virtually and physically. We launched an intranet that breaks down geographical barriers and we bring everyone together once a year for "One Airbnb," where we share vision and strategy, talk about what is and isn't working, learn about each other and, importantly, give back to the community.

So that we are truly connected with our community of hosts, each Airfam member gets a travel budget of $500 per quarter to go out and see the world. As they experience new homes, cultures, and people, we encourage story-sharing through the intranet and exclusive social media channels. Because belonging is at our core, we launched "Airfinity," employee resource groups that come together with a common culture and/or passion in mind. We now have 12 of these groups representing lifestyles, life stages, interests, and ethnicities. These employee groups drive our internal culture and create a deeper sense of belonging for those who participate.

As Airbnb's CMO, it is my responsibility to ensure that everyone on my team understands and is inspired by the company's mission, purpose, and core values. But it doesn't stop there. If we are to meet our ambition of becoming a brand that defines this generation, we have to ensure that the mission and values actually shape the work that we put into the world. This in turn means that we have to ensure we build a marketing team that is as diverse and inclusive as the community we serve. It is only through harnessing deep-rooted diversity from around the world that we can be confident in producing brand-marketing initiatives that our community (existing and potential) actually cares about.


Download the ANA CMO Talent Challenge Playbook to read more about the impact of Airbnb's dedication to diversity and Mildenhall's lessons for CMOs. The playbook features case studies from more than two dozen CMOs from the ANA Masters Circle who are redefining the rules of what it takes to be a great CMO. Learn more about the ANA Masters Circle.

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