Why Barbie, an Airship, and a Wienermobile are posting on Airbnb

It was a warm August evening in Evanston, Ill., Just north of Chicago, when the Wienermobile rolled out the red carpet for a slumber party.

In fact, the carpet was green, and not so much carpet as artificial grass. Inside the Wienermobile, the signature marketing machine for meat brand Oscar Mayer, there was a trundle bed and a mini-fridge. There were hot dog sunglasses, hot dog suits and real hot dogs with all the accessories. (But no ketchup: Chicago doesn’t really make hot dogs with ketchup. That’s one thing.)

It was the first time that a Wienermobile had been reassigned to paid hosting, the result of a collaboration between Oscar Mayer and Airbnb, the colocation platform that increasingly tries to seduce customers by promising them adventure and accommodation.

If the Wienermobile cascade It sounds familiar, maybe it’s because Airbnb has had similar collaborations since then. Goodyear airship welcomed Airbnb guests last month. A life-size version of Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse has opened last the week. And Downton Abbey – meaning Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England – will accommodate two tenants this month.

All of these offers were part of an Airbnb marketing campaign, and all of them made headlines. It was no accident.

“I think a lot of brands in the future will need to be in the news, not just advertising,” said Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. “And in order to be in the news you have to do something that is worth someone talking about.”

The first of these collaborations was with Oscar Mayer, a brand owned by Kraft Heinz. Chicago resident Bonnie Rosenberg, 32, stayed in the Wienermobile on August 1, her first night at the hotel. She knew it was all a marketing ploy for Oscar Mayer and Airbnb. But it all felt so campy, nostalgic and fun.

“I saw a Chicago Tribune Twitter post covering it, and I was like a jackpot,” she said. “I really want to do this.”

Ms Rosenberg said she and her husband Bill Welense, 36, had a blast delving into the absurdity of it all. “It was really surreal, I have to say, because it was organized like a movie set would be,” she added.

The Wienermobile and similar accommodation options were available on a first come, first served basis, and only for a few nights. So while millions of people have read about them, few have been able to book them.

This scarcity can be effective for companies seeking media coverage, according to Ron Berman, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School. “It has to be more of an interesting story – let’s call it an ambitious experiment – than a real experiment,” he said.

While it is difficult to get the proper attention, reports that associate brands with opportunities can make great marketing, said Professor Berman. And the New York Times reporters who write about these marketing tactics could help brands even more.

But Airbnb, which has been valued at around $ 30 billion, is worth watching as it extends beyond accommodation and into the more nebulous realm of experiences. The platform has already established itself as a disruptive force in the hospitality and real estate industries, facing cities, neighborhoods and residents in bitter legal battles at almost every step of the way. And last week, after a shooting at a rental building that killed five people at a Halloween party, Mr. Chesky said on twitter that Airbnb was planning to crack down on “party houses.”

In Malibu, California, the Barbie mansion didn’t really exist as such until Mattel teamed up with Airbnb to promote the 60th anniversary of the Barbie brand. Adorned with touches of pink especially for last week’s booking, the property was open to four people for just two nights. Still, he got media coverage from CNBC, The New York Post, and Fox News.

“We thought this partnership with Airbnb would be a really fun and relevant way” to strengthen Barbie’s place in popular culture, said Lisa McKnight, Global Head of Barbie and Dolls for Mattel.

Some brands have been approached by Airbnb to create experiences that made headlines or caught fire on social media. But others, Mr Chesky said, were starting to search for listings independently.

Jim Beam, who makes bourbon in Kentucky, offered limited stays in a century-old cottage on the Clermont distillery park as part of its own marketing plan, said Dan Cohen, spokesperson for Beam Suntory, Jim Beam’s parent company.

“We have always thought about potentially bringing some of our fans to such an authentic, intimate and unique experience in our distillery by allowing them to stay in this home,” said Mr. Cohen.

(Only two one-night stays at the cottage were available on Airbnb – one this month and one next month – and both were quickly booked.)

This summer, Airbnb, founded in 2008, introduced a premium rental tier, Airbnb Luxe, allowing users to rent villas, lodges or castles for thousands of dollars a night (donate or to take). The company also offers experiences – activities with Airbnb hosts – and adventures, like surfing, sailing, and foraging.

It plans to go public in 2020, which employees are calling for. Mr. Chesky declined to say whether the company would make an initial public offering or a direct listing.

A marketing blitz would make sense for a business getting ready to go public. And while Airbnb’s spending this year is in line with past trends, Mr. Chesky said, 2019 has been “a year of investment.”

For the few tenants who have been able to take advantage of the recent commercialization campaign, the investment has paid off. The couple who booked the Goodyear airship on its first night got engaged during their stay. And for Ms. Rosenberg, the Wienermobile was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

“I think it was unique compared to all the other Airbnbs that I have met,” she said.

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