The development of Airbnb: How to successfully expand service in Japan

Mar 25 2016

Makoto Oda

Airbnb Japan Inc.
Country Brand Marketing Manager

Hisayo Okada

CyberAgent, Inc.
Internet Advertising Headquarters Global Business Department Director

Shohei Aruga

CyberAgent, Inc.
Internet Advertising Headquarters Online Video Solutions Department Planner

Keiichi Ando

CyberAgent, Inc.
Internet Advertising Headquarters Creative Technology Department Director

Execute a campaign project that aims to successfully bring in a service to Japan which first originated abroad.
Having “Guest play the main role” as the main focus, it not only paves way for success of this project but also contributes to raising the familiarity level domestically.
We welcomed Mr. Oda from Airbnb Japan, and had interviewed with the people in charge of this campaign.

The overview of this project & the background

CA Aruga:During the end of last year on December, we executed a campaign that lets you stay at Tokyo Tower over night. This project titled “Stay at Tokyo Tower for the first time ever! Night view and the sunrise all to yourself!” basically gives the dream-like hospitality for one night using service provided by Airbnb.
This project starts off by the child or the grandchild applying for this campaign, and then they present their parents or grandparents with a night that almost only possible in a dream.
We would invite a group of two people that are of senior generation whom had worked tremendously hard in shaping Japan. We would then prepare them a Japanese style room for one night on top of the symbolic landmark of Tokyo, Tokyo Tower. We would have them not only enjoy the night, but also fully maximize the experience by having tea at the nearby Zojo-ji temple and serving breakfast to accommodate the sunrise.
Mr. Oda:Up until now, Airbnb has created breath-taking moments all over the world. This project allows for that experience in which you could have never dreamed of. For example, there has been other unique campaigns such as staying overnight on top of a ski jumping hill in Oslo (Norway), or staying at world’s biggest soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). We have also executed similar projects, but we would like to take it a step further. That is to provide an “once in a life-time” experience at a location that suits that motto. Therefore, after speaking with your company, we decided to go through with this project that lets you stay overnight at Tokyo Tower.

What we focused on

Mr. Oda:What we most importantly focused on was the fact that the main role is played by “guest”. This is a feeling we have continuously emphasized to everyone participating in this project including your company. We put all effort and decision based on how to best accommodate and fully have the guest enjoy their time during the stay.
In conclusion, although the PR effect through media exposure worked out well, we believe what most effectively helped on producing the results came from a good story line and presenting how much guests are enjoying their experience through videos and pictures. Ultimately, the biggest accomplishment for us was to hear from the guest that they truly enjoyed their stay and were glad that they came.
CA Aruga:Airbnb operates on the belief that “host” welcomes their “guest” with genuine hospitality. But this time, we were given the role of “host”, so we gave our all-out effort on creating a project in which the guests would enjoy their stay.

CA Ando:I was previously in charge of providing hospitality outside of accommodations. But this project was not planned by travel agency, therefore, I focused on presenting the attachment between both“host” and “guest” that is usually provided by Airbnb.
For example, I focused on creating a travel guide with a design that looks homemade as well as not making it look too demanding.
I was very relieved to hear that “guests” from this Airbnb service enjoyed their experience. We were also pleased to hear that they would love to be the provider of the service (“host”) as well in the near future.

Effect of the project

CA Aruga:We started accepting pre-entry a month before the day of the stay. But even from the announcement stage, there were numerous inquiry from every direction regarding the campaign.
This project was structured so that kids could present their parents or grandparents out of filial piety with a stay at Tokyo Tower for one night. But what happened was that, the senior-age people were inquiring about wanting to stay at Tokyo Tower and not just limited those who would like to present their elderly parents with the gift of staying at Tokyo Tower. We were very pleased that this project reached not just one group, but various other age group as well.
Mr. Oda:We had a number set on number of application count we would like to see, but that number was a bit challenging and hard to accomplish.
That’s because this campaign was not for people applying themselves to stay at Tokyo Tower, but instead presenting their parents or grandparents with the gift of this opportunity. We thought that this scheme would not help much in receiving lots of application. But when we saw the results, we were amazed at the fact that we have received 1.5 times more than the goal number that was set beforehand.

CA Okada:During this campaign, we heard from some of our students in our internship program that they have heard others talking about “Airbnb is doing something new and interesting” or that they have seen about this campaign on T.V. We felt that this campaign was reaching groups that wants to popularize what Airbnb was doing.
Mr. Oda:This was a very effective project that exceeded our expectation.
The moment that was the most memorable was seeing a commentator cry while watching this campaign video on a morning T.V program. From that moment, I knew this campaign was that of which would touch the heart of many.
The guest was from Hiroshima and this was their second visit to Tokyo. Seeing the kids of the parents cry during the interview, or seeing the grandma cry a little while saying “I can’t come up with anything to say”, and seeing these scenes numerous times really touched my heart.
The grandpa who stayed on that day was saying “I hope we will be able to see a snow-covered Mt. Fuji tomorrow”. When he woke up the next morning, he was able to see a snow-covered Mt. Fuji with no clouds to be seen with a sunrise that painted the background with orange color.
It was said that Mt. Fuji seen from Tokyo Tower on that day was the best one yet during this season. I still remember seeing the scenery myself and finding myself in awe of the beautifulness.
The scene of the both parent looking at the sunrise was captured on a video. Every time I see the clip, it’s really a scene that will make you want to cry.

《Documentary movie of that day》

Specialized Movie Production

CA Aruga:For this campaign, we created 2 movies. The first one is a promo video that introduces what kind of room they will be staying at in Tokyo Tower. The other video is as Mr. Oda said, an edited documentary-feel video capturing the touching scene of the guests enjoying the sunrise. We filmed so that we could capture their expression and how the guests are enjoying their experience. The guests were very cooperative and thus allowed for us produce a video in which the harmonic and peaceful feel can be relayed to the audience.

《Pre-event Promo Video》

Mr. Oda:Before the producing the video, we asked for few things beforehand. For example, the main character (focus) should not be “Tokyo Tower” but instead “Guests”. That was the idea we were based on from the planning phase as well as the production of the video.
When I saw the first video produced by Mr. Ariga, I was very amazed by the work. That’s when I was convinced that the outcome would come out great!
Also, what I was most happy about was the music. We didn’t request much regarding music, but the music that was inserted by your company was very fitting, and we ended up using that whole music all the way to the end.
When we were talking with our Regional and Global team regarding the production of the movie, everyone on the team agreed that the music chosen was “very good”. I was very excited to see that both of our company was on the same page to an extent that everyone on our team could come to an agreement regarding the music.
Although the production of the video was very challenging, this video never fails to make people emotional and for that, we are very satisfied.

This project seen from a global viewpoint

CA Okada:What kind of feedbacks did you receive from Regional and Global team regarding this project?
Mr. Oda: We were told that this project succeeded in PR. But at the same time, PR is one part of the process, therefore, changes that follow will be important.
We actually measured the familiarity level of Airbnb, and after measuring at the end of last year, we found out that the domestic familiarity of Airbnb has been increasing starting last summer (basically less than a month).

CA Okada:The fact that the familiarity level increased in less than a month is quite impressive.
Mr. Oda:It sure is. Of course, there were other projects we were working on so this project isn’t the only factor. But we believe that this project saw the biggest boost compared to all the other projects.
We have also received positive feedbacks from the Regional and Global team saying that it was a really good idea to execute this project.
We believe that we’ve succeeded in relaying most of our message that we hoped to tell people. We also believe that participants of this project felt good about executing this project.。
We hope to continue on similar projects to this from now on. Since this Tokyo Tower project turned out to be very good, it actually raised the expectation within our company significantly. (Haha). As we need to execute projects that exceeds the success of the Tokyo Tower project, we kindly do ask for your proposals.

Future outlook for development in Japan

Mr. Oda:Since this service is still relatively new to Japan, I would like to see more people become familiar with and use this service.
I would like to see people experience a unique memorable stay as a “guest” at one of the location listed on Airbnb and feel great about their stay. As a “guest”, I would like to see more and more people get a taste of this wonderful experience as a “guest”.
Another thing, as of right now there are lots and lots of people from abroad visiting Japan. I believe lots of those visitors wants to “experience more of Japan” or “explore in more local and unique areas”.
So, for those visitors as well, I would like to see an increase in number of people in Japan who can provide hospitality. Using a platform like Airbnb that is capable of reaching all over the world, I would like to see the spirit of “Japanese Hospitality” and its culture spread all over world.
By increasing the number of “Host” who would welcome “Guests” in Japan, we can have visitors from abroad know more about Japanese hospitality.
From that, I hope that we can have visitors not only stay in touristy spots, but also less known locations and have them experience and know more about the unique and local parts of Japan.
From now on, I would like to see an increase in number of hosts that would post “Listings (Accommodations)” where those hospitalities could be provided.
Therefore, it would be great to see an increase in both “Guests” and “Hosts” for Airbnb users.

CA Okada:Bringing in a service that was started abroad to Japan in hopes of succeeding can times be seen as unique to Japanese or too high of an expectation. Therefore, I’m sure there are lots of uncertainty for company’s on how and whether they can succeed in doing so.
By combining the service from the company with the characteristics and culture of Japan with good understanding, it can produce good effects. Also, if it already is a good service, the service can further expand by just developing a story that touches the heart of your targets.
By not being pushed back by the fact that the service first started abroad, we commit to further understand the service, and hope to support on making this service successful in Japan.

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