November 20, 2023

Is Airbnb Missing their Mission?

The potential impact of making business decisions that don’t align with your brand.

While AirBnb was born out of “necessity” for founders Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, they have intentionally built their brand around the mission of “creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere.”  From their product offerings to their tone of voice, they deploy the Everyman archetype with a hint of Explorer and have won the dollars and hearts of millions with their “of and for the people” approach.

But as the emphasis has shifted away from bookings and to the bottom line, something that often occurs after a company goes public, whispers of “innovations” like sponsored listings and increased hosting fees miss the mission, the first sign of trouble in the world of branding, customer loyalty, and consumer perception.

I would argue that making a “business decision” that ultimately doesn’t align with your brand, isn’t a good business decision. The long term implications of prioritizing new customers, in this case large property management companies, over early adopters and long-time loyal customers, individual hosts, could be detrimental to your brand, ultimately impacting your business.

Increase the host fees and the listing fees might increase as well, alienating travelers who prioritize price, who would still have the option to book with platforms like and Expedia, where affordability stays a top priority. Add sponsored listings and lose travelers that prioritize experience, their original loyalty to Airbnb inspired by the ability to opt out of the “managed” or impersonal understanding of a new destination offered by traditional big box hotels and large property management companies.

For decades, companies like Apple and Nike have shown us that making brand-led decisions doesn’t mean sacrificing revenue, but it does require patience and listening to the customer, the quieter voice than that of the foot-stomping shareholders. We’ll see who Airbnb decides to listen to over the next months and years, and who answers the call of the traveler, if they choose not to.