If you’re a cult brand looking to take on a scale player in an industry that favours significant footprint, how can you hope to win? Possibly by retaining everything that reinforces your cult brand kudos and plugging in to what Jeremiah Owyang refers to as the Collaborative Economy.
According to research that he shares here, companies like Airbnb are now giving traditional hotel brands something of a run for their rooms. The model is effective, according to Thomas Friedman who wrote an article in the New York Times that Owyang references, because this collaborative approach is personal, local and based on a refreshing sense of trust.
Friedman quotes Brian Chesky, the guy who started Airbnb, ““It used to be that corporations and brands had all the trust … There is a whole generation of people that don’t want everything mass produced. They want things that are unique and personal.”
The fact that 140,000 people around the world are staying in Airbnb rooms on an given night proves that intimacy can indeed scale. That’s possible of course because the encounters themselves take place in local neighbourhoods, homes, and rooms – environments that larger hotels with their hundreds and hundreds of rooms stacked on top of one another simply cannot replicate. Airbnb may be a mass model, but it doesn’t feel that way. And it doesn’t behave that way. It retains the sense of “in the know” that makes cult brands so compelling for followers – the very qualities of unique and personal that Chesky refers to.
If you’re a major hotel chain, perhaps this trend is not big enough yet to warrant completely changing what you offer, but to me it points to an irony that scale brands will in time need to find some way to resolve.
As brands find more and more economic reasons to get bigger, the experiences that customers increasingly value and trust are getting smaller (as in more one on one).
Photo of “LDI – Multi Bed Jumping” taken by Eric Schmuttenmaer, sourced from Flickr