Whether it’s a weekend getaway or an international excursion, people look forward to their next vacation. And before setting off, they usually experience three travel stages: dream, plan, book. That middle step of planning a trip can take weeks or even months as travelers conduct the research to optimise their experience, get excited about the trip, and to make sure they have no regrets.
But can travel marketers use video to give people a nudge to book sooner?
Airbnb proved it’s possible — and it’s a strategy the brand aims to expand globally.
While a giant in the home-sharing space, the company wanted to drive consideration for its 5 million listings in 81,000 cities around the world. So it set a global marketing goal to boost consideration — especially in Latin America, where people are generally familiar with the Airbnb brand, but not everyone understands how the platform works.
Airbnb also put particular emphasis on Brazil, where it faces competition from more traditional, established accommodation chains. While Brazil is considered a growth market for Airbnb, the country is no stranger to digital. In fact, it has the fourth-largest internet population in the world and the largest in Latin America.
With that in mind, Airbnb turned to YouTube, the second-largest video destination in Brazil.1 To encourage Brazilian travelers to book their next trip, the Airbnb brand team launched a video campaign that captured the warmth and hospitality of Brazilian culture.
From lush green gardens to multicolour oil paintings, the videos highlighted the unique homes and passions of six different hosts around Brazil with one welcoming message: “Pode entrar,” or roughly in English, “You may come in.”
“We wanted to highlight local stories so people can see themselves. … Every video features real hosts, real homes, and real stories.”
“We wanted to highlight local stories so people can see themselves,” said Sarah Galvao, senior brand marketing manager of Airbnb in Latin America. “The best way to talk about Airbnb is through the heart of the community: the hosts. Every video features real hosts, real homes, and real stories,” said Galvao.
But the company also wanted the videos to be more than a branding campaign. Airbnb made its brand video campaign more actionable for people by leaning into four tactics:
How to make an actionable branding campaign
1. Test the brand campaign on a smaller scale
Airbnb launched its video campaign in Brazil during the offseason to test the impact of performance tools like TrueView for action. It wanted to gain insights and continue the conversation with its audience. To encourage people to plan their trips, Airbnb used the call to action “Reservar,” or “Reserve” in English, which took people to Airbnb’s website to search for accommodations with dates. By running a smaller scale campaign, the team could test strategies with less pressure and understand what works best before rolling out a global campaign.
2. Find your most engaged audience with machine learning
Airbnb aimed to reach the most engaged audience by using Smart Bidding to predict the audience most likely to convert. Throughout the course of the two-month campaign, the product’s machine learning identified the most engaged audiences through consumer patterns and search terms to drive higher conversions. That involved some degree of patience. “It’s hard to not want to change things too quickly, but it’s important to give TrueView for action campaigns at least two weeks before making any changes,” said Dwight Pirtle, programmatic and paid social lead at Airbnb.
3. Tailor creative to uncover new audiences
While Airbnb typically focuses on reaching people in the market for travel, and machine learning helps discover those most likely to engage, Pirtle points out that it’s also important to discover new audiences. That was accomplished by highlighting one overarching message with different creative themes and passions, like surfing, gardening, and painting, within the video campaign.
“Despite variations of the creative, we repeated the same message throughout, no matter the length of video, to create one cohesive message,” said Pirtle.
Airbnb used affinity audiences to align the ads with the video content people planned to watch. For example, if someone was about to watch a video related to water sports, they would see the ad featuring a host with a passion for surfing.
4. Measure the full-funnel impact
“The way to gain a competitive advantage is to build in microconversions to inspire people and move them further down the funnel,” said Pirtle. Airbnb saw a 142% increase in branded search terms and a 14% increase in bookings, proving a brand campaign can impact sales. Because planning a trip can take months, Airbnb intends to expand its analysis of campaign results to 120 days instead of only 30 days, as it did previously.
When running brand campaigns, measure lower funnel metrics to get a picture of the full range of impact. While addressing barriers and increasing consideration was the ultimate goal, if the Airbnb marketing team hadn’t challenged themselves to tie their work to metrics in the “plan” phase, they would not have been able to show impact lower in the funnel.