Speaker Interview: Liza Dunning
Published 30th January 2019
Hey Liza! Thanks for joining us – we’re really excited to host you at LAC this year. Your presentation will be covering, among other topics, the importance of a community-driven content strategy – is this something you see as becoming more mainstream, and if so, why?
Definitely. I think community-driven content is something that is obviously quite natural to a brand like Airbnb -- our platform and product are very much reliant on the interaction of a community. But there is also the larger trend of consumers not really caring about what a brand has to say as much as they do, say, independent social media influencers or just their own friends/peers. They get their recommendations on what to buy, what to do, what to follow from them. So brands have become more reliant on getting their message through by way of these individual tastemakers rather than focusing on a traditional, monolithic brand voice that is carried consistently throughout all their marketing.
Are strong brand values essential to doing business in today’s economy? If so, what are the most important values that have impacted your work with Airbnb?
Absolutely. There are plenty of studies that prove our largest, newest consumer generations care less about aligning with brands based on status, and more about deeply aligning with those brands that represent their own values or beliefs. Or, going even further: They seek out brands and are willing to pay more for brands that are doing something to make a difference. It's pretty interesting to see.
The most important values that impact our work at Airbnb have been (obviously) around the values of belonging, embracing the adventure of the unknown, and empowering humans as their own entrepreneurs. In that, we celebrate diversity, individuality, and what we can learn from each other in traveling or hosting. It's fundamental to the product, really. With those values in mind, we've found incredible human stories in our community to spotlight, content wise. It's made us rethink how we 'craft' stories in marketing -- it's not about coming up with a compelling story or hiring a paid actor or model to play a part. It's about capturing real stories, sometimes imperfect stories in a compelling way. As a writer, it's a very different process. But when we do come across these inspiring host and guest stories, I always think: There is nothing I could have ever come up on my own that would be this good. The truth is always more interesting than fiction.
With such a broad customer base, it must be tricky to produce content which appeals across the board – how have you approached this challenge?
I think there is richness in being able to flex a brand's voice and the types of content we share -- making room for a diverse range of stories coming from a diverse group of storytellers that appeals to different kinds of travellers and different kinds of hosts. That's the beauty of Airbnb and the adventure of travel, right? It's different every time and not every experience will resonate with every customer. Of course, there's always a common thread that *should* appeal across the board: the idea of belonging, hospitality, and the transformational experiences that come from hosting other people or being open to meeting others around the world. The challenge is making sure that all resonates, feels fresh, feels genuine but also captivating -- and that this 'thread' remains at the heart of all of our content, always.
A number of, shall we say, ‘similar’ platforms have sprung up since Airbnb’s surge in popularity - how do you stay ahead of the competition?
I like how you phrase that. :) I can't speak too much to the product/business development and how we specifically stay ahead of other platforms. I will say more generally that across it all, we try to focus on what made us popular in the first place-- the unique experience or unique value you find as a guest, the economic empowerment and new connections you get as a host. The more ways we can build out on those core values in a way that feels true to Airbnb while still maintaining the trust of a community, the more we succeed and the less we have to worry about what competition is doing in 'similar' ways. :)
Alongside companies like Uber, Spotify and Netflix, Airbnb is probably the most significant disruptor in its industry. Where do you see the next major disruptors coming from, and is there any industry which you think is ready for a real shake-up?
This is always a tricky question. If I had a brilliant answer, maybe I'd probably be doing the shaking up myself. :) I guess I'd love to see some disruption in the airline industry. Also, here's a loaded one: how about our election systems? Can someone please solve that?!
And finally, as you’ll be visiting us in London for LAC, what else would you most like to do while you’re here?
Not to sound like a lush, but I'm in awe of the creativity and style in London's restaurant and bar game. Last time I was here, I had the most incredible cocktail of my life. It was over-the-top artisanal insanity. So maybe I can somehow outdo that one? (All Twitter suggestions @LizaDunning are very much welcomed) :)
Thanks Liza! We can’t wait to see you at LAC on Friday 8th January, 12:00-13:00 in Conference Room 2!