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Paying $1m Forward

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our customisable research platform featuring the world’s most innovative, creative and effective ad campaigns and marketing ideas

Hospitality brand encourages its community to perform random acts of kindness

Online travel marketplace Airbnb has gifted $1m to its members and is asking them to use the money for unique acts of kindness or generosity.

Starting on New Year’s Eve, the company began handing out $10 to 100,000 different members, with the intention of ‘reducing the number of strangers in the world, one kind, inventive and endearing act at a time’. People can upload their good deeds to a website, using the hashtag #OneLessStranger.

‘For Airbnb, hospitality is personal and we are committed to spreading a sense of belonging far and wide,’ said Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO of Airbnb. ‘What better way to showcase that than by inviting our global community to extend a gesture of hospitality to a complete stranger?’


Contagious Insight / 

Cultivating the community / This is a clear effort by Airbnb to engage with a wide cross-section of its members in a meaningful way - whether people receive $10 gift, watch the videos or become the recipient of a good deed.

By focusing on its community, and by creating a ‘spirit of belonging’ (as the press release calls it), Airbnb is also creating a USP that traditional hotels could struggle to compete with. In other words, rather than only talking about the quality of the accommodation – type of view, location of the room, luxuriousness of the sheets, etc – Airbnb is building its community around values of friendship. The ‘pay it forward’ mechanic to this campaign is intended to open doors and give people a more welcoming, deeper relationship with the rest of the Airbnb community.

Creating better content / This is also a sure-fire way of creating interesting, feel-good content for people to share and enjoy online. In that respect, it reminded us of JetBlue’s recent initiative, which awarded a ticket to a deserving individual and then enabled them to pass the ticket on to someone else looking to do a good deed.

It’s interesting to note that Airbnb seems to be moving into content marketing in a big way. In November, the brand launched this lovely online video celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. Later that month, the company moved into print with the announcement of Pineapple, a quarterly magazine that tells intriguing stories from cities around the world. And now, this campaign mechanic is creating nuggets of online content for the brand to leverage.

This isn’t coincidental to Mildenhall’s arrival—he spearheaded Coca-Colas move toward content in his time at the company through the Liquid and Linked strategy, a topic we explored in-depth in our Coca-Cola case study. In fact, the campaign feels very 'Share Happiness’, but without that brand’s iconic legacy and decades of brand positioning. One concern is that without a solid backing to Airbnb’s hospitality pledge that $10 may turn into a new bottle of body wash in a host’s property’s bathroom, or stay in their pocket.

One Less Stranger site

Contagious X features a piece on disruptive tactics by Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO at Airbnb. Click here to read the article or here to download a free pdf of the issue, available until January 31.  

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O. Contagious I/O is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious I/O contact