advice on how to build meaningful brands

September 9, 2019

66 | Part 1 of 3 – A behind the scenes of how Airbnb found and implemented their purpose and how you can do it too – with Douglas Atkin

Why you’ve got to listen to this episode:

There is a lot of information out there about the importance of defining your purpose as an organization. That makes sense, after all, your purpose, or “why”, is the reason the organization exists, other than make a profit or be financially sustainable and healthy. But there is not a lot of information on how to find your purpose and make sure it’s a good one. And there is even less on how to implement that purpose.

Bringing your brand to life, turning your purpose and values, from words on your website or PowerPoint presentation into actions and experiences is really hard to do and most organization fail at it.

I see most organizations struggling on how to implement their purpose and values and how to create and nourish the right culture.

This three-part series, starting with episode 66, will walk you through the details of how to find your purpose, how to ensure it’s a good one, and how to bring it to life. We’ll give the behind the scenes details of how Airbnb did it, and is still doing it, including the process and exercises they went through.

In this episode I speak with Douglas Atkin, former Head of Community at Airbnb and the man responsible to define and implement Airbnb’s brand. Douglas worked alongside Airbnb founders. Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, to help build their brand starting with identifying what their purpose was and then moving to the hardest part which is how to live it.

In episode 60, Douglas gave an overview of the Airbnb brand, so if you haven’t heard that episode yet, go back and listen to it first.

Who can benefit from listening in:

The market is saturated in every product or services category, and the same goes for non-profits. Having a purpose is not a “touchy feely” thing, your purpose is business strategy. It’s what will make you stand out in a saturated marketplace, where your audience has a million options to choose from. Your purpose, if it’s a genuine and good one, is the answer to the question your audience is always asking…”Why you?”.

So if you don’t have a good purpose, or if your purpose is the typical jargon filled, long and uninspiring phrase that tends to focus on what you do rather than why you do it, you need to scrap it and really do the work to define your true purpose. But of course, that’s just the beginning.

Although it’s difficult to identify your “why” or purpose, and ensure it’s a good one, it’s exponentially harder to live your purpose. Failing to live your purpose make it seem disingenuous, a marketing scheme, which, of course, turns people off your brand.

It’s not enough to just state your purpose, you have to proof you mean it. Everything you do and say must align with your purpose.

Any brand, for profit or non-profit, big or small, must know how to find its true purpose and how to bring it to life.

In this episode Douglas Atkin walks us through the behind the scenes of how Airbnb did it including the process and exact exercises they used to identify their purpose, to make sure it’s a good one and to bring that purpose to life.

In this episode we’ll discuss in detail the following topics:

  1. Purpose
    1. Why you should have one
    2. What makes a good purpose
    3. How to define your purpose and how Airbnb defined its purpose
    4. How to launch your purpose
    5. How to show that it’s real


Episode 67 will focus on the following topics:

  1. Values
    1. The importance and role of core values
    2. How to define your values
    3. How to operationalize your values

Episode 68 will focus on the following topics:

  1. Culture
    1. What is culture – the visible and invisible aspects of culture
    2. How is culture made
    3. How to create and nourish the right culture
    4. What to do when you “fuck up” your culture

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • “The purpose is the reason the organization exists; therefore, it is the CEO’s job to make it real. The CEO is the “owner” of the purpose. She must embody the purpose and live by example.”
  • “You are only as good as your last purpose led decision.”
  • Your purpose is tested and should be applied in every decision, and it especially counts on decisions when not living according to your purpose would be so much easier, cheaper or take less time and energy.
  • You must live your purpose from the inside out.
  • “People need to believe and be deeply committed to the purpose, and those commitments need huge amounts of deposits in the brand, the values and the culture.”

A few interesting videos and articles about Airbnb’s new brand

The before and after Airbnb logos

An Airbnb event

Links to resources mentioned in this episode


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