Grid Engine — Flickr

Airbnb: Creating a shared brand identity

Airbnb are one of the pioneers of the sharing economy, providing an online market place where people can become ‘hosts’ and rent out their home to visitors to their city. For travellers they offer an alternative to staying in a hotel and a more authentic experience of the city. Airbnb launched in 2008 and now have over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries.

As the business evolved Airbnb recognized that the brand needed to evolve too. In 2014 they introduced their new logo, christened the Bélo and described as “the universal symbol of belonging”. To capture the sense of community that exists around the brand, Airbnb hosts are invited to create their own versions of the Bélo, so that each version is familiar, but slightly different. Airbnb say they recognise that their identity can’t be separated from their hosts, so the Bélo represents a “shared brand identity”.

Airbnb is a community, and this logo has been designed to reflect that. The trend for giving customers / clients the opportunity to personalise a brand is growing. Coca Cola enjoyed considerable commercial success with individually named bottles in their “Share a Coke” campaign and new mobile-only Atom Bank has introduced personalized logos for customers, with 1.4 million variants.

This personalised approach is clearly very powerful, but it is more appropriate for consumer brands. It does pose a risk of confusing your audience, unless you have a visually strong logo as a starting point — like the Bélo.

But a personalized brand is a great way to demonstrate customer-focus and build a stronger relationship with your customers. It’s not practical for every organization to introduce an identity with a wide range of permutations, but there could be a way for you to create something that feels like a shared brand identity, rather than just a badge reflecting your ownership. It’s just a question of creativity.