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The story of a symbol of belonging

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I’ve been following Airbnb pretty much since the beginning. The company has always fascinated me because I saw it as being less about technology and more about travel, hospitality, community and, in my view, real estate.

An office building is just a set of spaces that get rented out on long term leases. A hotel building is just a set of spaces that get rented out on short term leases (one night at a time). And Airbnb spaces are simply extra or “found spaces” – such as an extra bedroom – that could never really be rented out at any sort of scale before. But then Airbnb came along, built a community around it, and empowered everybody to make money off that found, extra space. I think that’s pretty neat.

Well today, Airbnb unveiled an entirely new logo, brand, and expression. It’s all about belonging, and their new logo is called the Bélo. Here’s a quick video that they call “the story of the symbol of belonging”. If you can’t see it below, click here.

What’s interesting about this new expression is that it’s a perfect example of Simon Sinek’s belief that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And in this case, Airbnb’s why is community, trust, belonging, and a sense of place. Talk about emotive.

In both the above video and in CEO Brian Chesky’s blog post today, reference is made to our cities and towns, and the fact that as they continue to get larger, we’re also becoming increasingly more disconnected. Things have gotten impersonal. But Airbnb is bringing back that sense of belonging.

On a less emotive level, what it also does is set Airbnb up for expansion.

Chesky has said before that the company wants to own the entire travel experience – from the moment you leave your home to the moment you return. So presumably a big impetus behind the rebrand was to develop something that could become ubiquitous across a number of different products and services. Which is why it makes perfect sense that they would encourage people to design their own versions of the logo.

So while the rebrand has received a lot of criticism today – some people say it looks like a vagina – I wouldn’t discount it just yet. There are bigger plans in store.

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