"The tried and tested path of the last decade, mainly focused on search marketing and reward programs for frequent customers, might not stand the test of time."
Quote from Mario Gavira, tech executive, angel investor and board adviser, in an article on Airbnb's marketing playbook on PhocusWire this week.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered by PhocusWire that week.
Airbnb's marketing playbook, as analyzed in detail this week by Mario Gavira, is obviously something to admire.
In fact, Airbnb's ability to drive so much direct traffic is perhaps the most fascinating element of the company's recent IPO filing.
But this process has been at the core of Airbnb's DNA since its inception, driven in part in the early days but simply not having the marketing muscle to head down the keyword-buying route favored by its peers elsewhere in the industry.
Brand recognition and loyalty has become a big part of the Airbnb machine, meaning that it has been able to keep to its low-key digital marketing strategy into recent years as it's got bigger and slid in alongside the likes of Expedia and Booking.com for attention in the wider travel sector.
Yet competitors of Airbnb, including the aforementioned online travel agency giants and many others, will be able to simply replicate that playbook.
They are currently far too invested in that other machine - one that costs them millions (billions, in the case of Expedia Group and Booking Holdings) each year and has them in a stranglehold of sorts.
It's worth pointing out that, arguably, Booking.com and Expedia have equally high brand recognition in the marketplace as Airbnb.
They and others all want to drive more direct traffic but they are stuck in a process that will be difficult to give up, especially as so many of them have developed complex techniques behind the scenes to work within the bidding system to their advantage.
The propellant for change will perhaps come in the unlikely form of coronavirus.
In a market where travelers are anxious about getting on the road again, previous positive experiences with companies (the trust factor) might play a major role in shifting where people start their travel search.
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