Airbnb Shows Its New Face to the World

You may have heard of Airbnb. The company (and other “sharing economy” businesses lumped together despite serving different constituencies in different industries) has struggled a bit to define itself to the public as its business is a patchwork “community” made up of people who want to share their homes and people looking for homes to be shared.

Today the company launched a new website, a new logo, and a slew of content designed to give us all a better idea of what it does–and to give the members of its community a clearer sense of identity.

First, the video explaining the logo and tying it into the brand proposition:

According to the release, the Bélo also stands for “open windows, open doors, and shared values.”

Founder Brian Chesky explains things in a blog post after the jump.

Chesky writes (virtually):

“For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. “

He hits this emotional point repeatedly:

“It’s a connection that can last a lifetime. That’s because the rewards you get from Airbnb aren’t just financial—they’re personal—for hosts and guests alike.

Belonging is the idea that defines Airbnb, but the way we’ve represented Airbnb to the world until now hasn’t fully captured this.”

The message, in case you missed it, is all about the square peg/round hole conundrum: Airbnb is defined by its millions of individual users, and it means different things to each of them. On that front, the company wants you to create your own version of its logo, which is unlike other corporate symbols in that it has been “handed over to the community to make it their own”…and to print it on business cards, t-shirts, etc.

The link is essentially a paint-style program allowing users to customize the symbol just like they customize the apartments they will later rent to strangers. Got it?

The site also received a thorough redesign, and the new content offering includes individual mini-docs like this one:

But that’s not all. Question for fellow New Yorkers: have you noticed the company’s recent hyper-local ad campaign?

We have too. This one is more an advocacy effort with an “us vs. them” message, “them” being the hospitality industry and state/local government.

Airbnb plays the messaging/positioning game on two different levels, simultaneously casting its users as rebels standing against regulators while acknowledging that, yes, there are things called laws with which it must comply before it can gain real influence. Key phrase from today’s Businessweek profile of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, from an Airbnb proponent: “He opposes economic empowerment for New Yorkers.”

That’s good messaging. The company’s public-facing campaigns also do a good job of allowing its members to hold up a mirror of sorts and cast themselves as its representatives.

As for how successful the new elements will be, they seem to primarily reinforce what we already know: Airbnb is here, and established industries/regulatory bodies have to accept that. Any counter-moves they make will be defensive.

You can’t stop this roll. You can only slow it down.