Last week, I was performing a Super Host Listing Optimization and I noticed the host was attempting to brand their Airbnb listing as the “Joshua Tree Oasis”.
I must admit it’s a catchy name. Besides that, as I will demonstrate, it was a weak attempt at branding his vacation rental.
The first thing I did was search Instagram for his brand name. I didn’t think I saw his listing, or at least it wasn’t obvious (Later, I confirmed on a call with the Airbnb host of this listing that there is no Instagram.)
Next, I went to search “Joshua Tree Oasis” online. Guess who I found?
In summary, this Airbnb host was taking up the most valuable real estate of the entire Airbnb listing (the front part of the Airbnb title) in an attempt to brand his Airbnb.
And then stopped there..
It would be like providing wifi for your guest only for the first day, then asking them to figure it out. Oh wait, that actually happened to me.
By my estimation working with thousands of Airbnb listings every year, most of the time, branding has no effect on your Airbnb business.
In this case, I believe it actually had a negative effect. This Airbnb host was pushing his FPGs (future potential guests) to his competition!
This blog post is well-timed because I purchased an apartment in Medellin, Colombia that I plan to list on Airbnb and create a brand around.
By the end of this blog about branding your Airbnb, you will be able to answer the following questions:
- What does it mean to brand your Airbnb?
- How to brand an Airbnb?
- When it does and doesn’t make sense to brand your Airbnb listing?
What Is Branding?
I think branding is best described in terms of relevant examples. Let’s take a look at Airbnb.
Vacation rentals have been around forever.
In 2008, Airbnb branded the vacation rental market.
Just as Kleenex did for tissues.
And as Nike did the shoe market.
Or even the NBA (Nation Basketball Association) did the professional basketball league market.
Interestingly, no one has been able to brand the nightclub scene.
Think about your gym membership. If you’re in the USA, it might be 24 Hour Fitness. When you go to a different city, you know what to expect when you enter that gym. Different location, similar experience.
To brand something is to associate a greater meaning to a single word. It’s recognizable through word of mouth and advertisements.
Recently I discovered a Chinese food restaurant near my new apartment in Medellin and guess what I saw. Branded edamame!
The name of the restaurant is Kung Food and it’s delicious. Is this a good branding idea? Yes because it’s easily recognizable and memorable. Because they can expect repeat clients and word-of-mouth referrals. Because someone might return to this restaurant specifically for this product.
Well done, Kung Food.
As it relates to vacation rentals, when you tell your friend that you Airbnb’d for your recent vacation, you both know what that means.
You probably had an excellent time. You probably got a killer deal. You probably lived in a super awesome, undiscovered neighborhood. OK. Maybe I’m a bit biased as an Airbnb guest of more than 1,600 nights 🙂
As an Airbnb host, branding your listing can mean something very simple like creating an Instagram account or something very complex like paying for a website and SEO to rank high in relevant searches.
What Does It Mean To Brand Your Airbnb?
When you consciously decide to brand your short term rental, it means you are trying to separate yourself from the competition.
Nike is no longer a competitor for shoes. You buy Nikes or you buy shoes.
Kleenex branded itself into a noun.
As did Airbnb for vacation rentals.
If you successfully brand yourself, you experience word-of-mouth growth, the best kind of marketing. You become the safe choice. You have a reputation that follows you.
This reputation can take many forms.
Motel 6 is going to be consistently cheap and low quality. But you know you’ll get a bed, running water, and a roof over your head. It won’t be in a desirable part of town, but you know it’ll be affordable. If that’s the clientele you’re going for, there’s value in creating that brand.
The Ritz-Carlton is associated with luxury. It’s going to get you an expensive hotel room with a comfortable mattress, in an upscale part of town, maybe with a nice view. It’s going to be expensive. The customers are going to be higher end. The Ritz is also more on the hook if they f**k up. While Motel 6 can say to a complaining customer: were you expecting The Ritz!?
Think about what brand image you’re going for.
As mentioned above, I’ve just purchased an apartment in Colombia which I plan to brand as The Belmonte Penthouse.
I already have the Instagram, website, and YouTube so don’t even think about it 🙂
But let’s take a look at the ways I might brand my Airbnb vacation rental.
How To Brand Your Airbnb Listing?
Just like there are different levels to Airbnb hosting, I want you to think of branding the same way.
In this section, I’m going to discuss a few of the ways you can brand your Airbnb starting with the least costly in terms of both time and money.
But you mustn’t stop there. If you stop now, it’s better you don’t even start as you could be sending FPGs to your competition.
The next low-cost thing you’ll want to do is create an Instagram account. I’ve done this for my apartment in Medellin which I’m calling The Belmonte Penthouse (if you’re reading this soon after I publish it, the Instagram account won’t be anything special!).
You can also create a Facebook account page very easily.
However, at this point, we’re really not branding our Airbnb yet. I consider these activities more so on the marketing side of the equation. You’re doing this to attract some direct bookings outside of Airbnb.
But once you create a vacation rental logo, now we’re branding!
Can you feel the branding?
A logo for your Airbnb is your identity. It’s equally or more important than your branded name.
But it’s what you do with your logo that’s even more important. Where do you put it?
It’s common to upload it as your Airbnb profile photo. But, be cautious here. To me, the only thing this does is allow your guest to expect a high level of service without giving you any added benefit.
Think about it, if an FPG sees a professional short term rental logo then they think it’s run by a professional company. Expectations are rising!
What do you, as the Airbnb host, get in return? I don’t think anything.
I do not plan to add my logo to my Airbnb profile.
But, I do plan on adding my vacation rental logo to a few other things like shampoo, conditioner, and soap bottles.
As I don’t permit shoes in the apartment, I will provide branded slippers.
I will also brand my towels.
I’m thinking of getting branded bathrobes.
I’m always thinking about what I can do to beat my competition. I’m going to create a little sign with a QR code that you can scan with your camera phone to access wifi instantly. No more confusing passwords! And, of course, I will add my logo to this unique feature.
Next up, you might consider paying a professional videographer to shoot some videos and upload these videos to your branded YouTube channel.
Here’s an example of the first apartment that I was going to buy.
Recently, I saw a cool Twitter post by an Airbnb host who branded their listing by creating an Instagrammable moment on the wall.
Great idea! Making your Airbnb shareable on social media is an excellent idea for any branded short term rental.
The only modification I’d make is clarifying whether ‘Blue Bridge’ or ‘Endless Views Cabin’ is the brand name. It’s not even in the Twitter username.
People who see this photo (ie potential future Airbnb guests) now have two options to search for you online. With short attention spans, the guest may get sidetracked after the first attempt and you’ve lost a sale.
In general, interior design is huge for any Airbnb, but that’s twice as true for branded Airbnbs. Think about when you walk into a Starbucks and everything feels familiar. You could probably be shown a photo of a random Starbucks anywhere in the world and probably know that it’s a Starbucks. Great branding.
Keep that in mind when furnishing your Airbnb. Whether it’s a similar color palette, a unique feature like a red door, chandelier, or painted wall, you want the guest to know where they are without seeing a logo.
Finally, the granddaddy of them all: a website.
You could find a website developer to create your personal vacation rental website or you could use one of the existing quality services.
Boostly service is built on WordPress, used by 42% of the world’s websites, which means it is much more customizable to your needs.
Lodgify is built on its own platform which means it will be less customizable, but more user-friendly.
If you read my Wheelhouse review and comparison to the other pricing tools, Boostly is like PriceLabs while Lodgify is like Beyond Pricing.
If you’re going with a professional website, then you should also be thinking of spending some money to attract inbound traffic to your website.
That could come in the form of hiring someone to write local content that FPGs might be searching for before a vacation to paying directly for vacation rental advertisements.
For my website, I plan to write articles about Medellin that are relevant to my target market: best coffee shops, best dining, best nightlife, etc.
If you think someone might search for your brand (ie The Belmonte Penthouse in Medellin) then you’ll want to focus more attention on making the site user-friendly, search engine friendly, and mobile-friendly. Clear and concise.
Vacation rental website SEO is a whole topic for another day. I’ll write about this once I have more direct experience with my own vacation rental website for The Belmonte Penthouse.
When Does It Make Sense To Brand My Airbnb?
At the end of the day branding is an investment. Just like Nike, The Ritz, and Motel 6 examples above, they’re spending money to brand themselves to generate recurring and increased sales.
Ultimately, you’ll want to ask yourself if the amount of time and money you will spend on branding your Airbnb will return an amount of revenue that exceeds the costs.
The natural next question is, well, how do you know this? I’ll tell you.
I’m going to attempt to tell you whether it does make sense to create a brand for your Airbnb listing, even if you just have one. In the following section, I will talk about when it does not make sense.
Is your space unique or high-end?
Will it be hard for the FPG to get what you’re offering from the competition?
Are you offering extra service that increases the guest experience outside of the actual space?
Do you have at least ten properties in the same market? (The more properties you have, the more branding your vacation rental business makes sense.)
Will a guest staying at your place be likely to take photos and post to social media?
Will a guest who stayed at your place return or tell friends about their experience?
Will an influencer or famous person be willing to stay in your Airbnb?
Do you have the time and money to dedicate to online marketing activities?
If you’re answering yes to most of the above questions, then it might make sense to turn your Airbnb into a brand.
Again, the ultimate answer comes from the cost/benefit analysis you will do after you create a plan of action in terms of branding and marketing your Airbnb.
When You Should NOT Brand Your Airbnb
When I’m optimizing Airbnb listings, it’s common that I’ll see a host trying to brand their space. I gave one example in the introduction to this blog post.
Here’s another host trying to brand their Airbnb, who should not. They added “Red Door Beach House” to the text, but not to the title, and they didn’t even add the photo with the red door as the cover photo.
Additionally, no Instagram, no website, only one listing, nothing really except a cool red door.
To be frank, this is the normal situation of Airbnb hosts trying to brand their Airbnb. More often than not it does not make sense to brand your Airbnb.
In this case, it is very low cost. Zero money or time spent on this brand. So that means our cost/benefit analysis above should be passed and make this a good idea?
Because this Airbnb listing is getting nothing for their efforts besides wasting some valuable real estate (the summary text) telling the FPG useless information.
Again, will the additional revenue, if any, be greater than the time and money investment?
Ask yourself: why do you want to brand your vacation rental?
If you don’t have a direct and solid answer that you can feel confident in telling someone, I’m confident in telling you it’s not a good idea to brand your Airbnb.
Here are some additional considerations:
It probably doesn’t make sense to brand your Airbnb if you’re offering a standard experience. Standard amenities. Standard location. Standard service.
If your Airbnb is nice, but there’s nothing unique or special about the space or the service relative to your market, then the answer is probably no.
Part of the reason to brand your space is to decrease your competition. But if after you brand your space the competition is identical, it probably doesn’t make any sense.
If you only have one listing, unless it’s a high-end property, it doesn’t make sense to brand it.
This can all be summarized into the following: if you don’t have a solid reason for branding your Airbnb, then you probably shouldn’t.
Remember, it takes hard work to successfully brand your Airbnb.
Summary: Branding A Vacation Rental
We talked a lot about branding your Airbnb listing, but you shouldn’t even be thinking about this unless you already have the basics in order.
Do you have quality and fully functional amenities?
Is your check-in process seamless? No complaints.
Is your service above average receiving at least a 4.8 overall rating or above?
Do you have a digital guidebook for your Airbnb?
If all of this is in order, then you can think about Level 3 Airbnb hosting activities like branding your vacation rental.
Here are the three biggest areas to successfully brand your Airbnb:
- Unique interior design
- Well-designed, simple vacation rental website
- Exposure though media, blogging, advertisements, etc.
If you have already branded your Airbnb listing, please comment with a link and the branding activities that you think are most powerful. I’d like to have a look. See you in the comments!