What Airbnb Discovered About Brand Value

by Robert Safian for Fast Company


Fast Company recently got access to an internal study undertaken at Airbnb, which tries to quantify the impact that investing in brand-building can have on an enterprise.|

Precipitated by Airbnb chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall—who previously was a top executive at Coca-Cola—the study’s underlying assumption is that the tech community does not understand and appreciate what brand strength delivers, and that by not leveraging that tool, Silicon Valley (for all its success) has left huge value unexploited.

I sat down with Airbnb’s head of brand, Nancy King, and TWBA\Chiat\Day chief strategy officer Neil Barrie to discuss the internal study. An edited excerpt is below. You can find an abridged version of the study itself here.

Fast Company: Airbnb recently undertook an internal study of iconic brands. Why?

Nancy King: We have incredibly smart investors who are scrutinizing every decision we make. Last year we hired a new CFO, and the first thing he did was look at every place we were spending money. The value of brand is hard to explain to people who think in terms of spreadsheets and finance. The idea was to explain the value of a brand using terminology and language that people who sit on finance teams or are investors could understand.

FC: There is a belief in much of Silicon Valley that you don’t need to invest in brand marketing because your product itself is the brand.

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