Who let this happen?
There’s an art, as a copywriter, to finding the right tone for a brand. As communications professionals, we help our clients find their brand’s voice and then convey that voice through owned content, earned media and social media. It’s a process, and there are countless rounds of revisions, edits and adjustments that happen before going public.
So, I was floored when I saw the complete flop on behalf of Airbnb when they launched their most recent advertising campaign at bus shelters across San Francisco. You know, the ads where they wrote passive aggressive ‘love letters’ to the city, taking on innocent targets like libraries. Maybe you’ve read about them in the news lately.
Long story short: Airbnb lost a legal battle with the City of San Francisco over being required to pay the city’s 14% hotel tax. The web-based vacation rental company [recently valued at $10 billion] was forced to pay $12 million in back taxes to the city – tax dollars that go toward improving public works, like city streets and libraries. Then, in what I can only assume was an effort to clear the air following the ruling, Airbnb executed an ad campaign offering ‘suggestions’ on how the city should use their newfound bounty. The tone clearly missed the mark with residents.
Some key takeaways:
1. Stay on message and stay true to your brand. Airbnb is a hospitality company that came off as incredibly inhospitable.
2. Know your audience. It’s more than what you say, it’s who you’re saying it to.
3. Don’t attack the innocent and the beloved, i.e. libraries.
4. Don’t execute an ad campaign that causes you to implement your crisis management strategy.
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