advice on how to build meaningful brands

September 23, 2019

67 | Part 2 of 3 – A behind the scenes of how Airbnb defined and operationalized their core values and how you can do it too – with Douglas Atkin

Why you’ve got to listen to this episode:

This is the second episode of a three-part series where we go deeper on how to define and operationalize your purpose and core values and how to create and nourish the right culture.

Operationalizing your brand is crucial for the success of your organization, but it is very hard to do.  Your brand purpose and values can’t simply be key messages you push out, or a marketing campaign, it has to be a genuine way of being for the organization and you need to do from the inside out.

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, define your values and how to bring them 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 three-part series, 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, redefining their values and then moving to the hardest part which is making sure they were living by their values and making their purpose real.

Who can benefit from listening in:

Almost every organization have a set of values, even Enron did. Remember them? Enron’s values were; integrity, communication, respect and excellence. These sound like a pretty good set of values, right? The problem is, most organizations don’t know how to live by their values. Hopefully most of them won’t be as far from their values as Enron was, but you get the idea. Having a set of values means nothing, if you don’t live by them.

But just how do you translate these words into actions and experiences? What does staff need to do differently and as part of their existing roles and responsibilities to make sure they are living by the values? Any brand, for profit or non-profit, big or small, must know how to define and live their values.

In this episode Douglas Atkin walks us through the behind the scenes of how Airbnb redefined their values, including the process and exact exercises they used to do it, and how they operationalized the values.

In this episode 67 we focus on:

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

NOTE: On episode 60, Douglas gave an overview of the Airbnb brand. It is helpful to listen to that overview first and then listen to the three-part series in sequence. So, if you haven’t heard episode 66 yet, go back and listen to it first.

In episode 66 we discussed:

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

In episode 68 we 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:

  • Start by hiring based on values.
  • Your values are the guardrails to make sure you’ll make your purpose real
  • “Your values define how you behave, relate and make decisions together”. Douglas Atkin
  • “Leaders must believe in, live the values and clearly show they make decisions based on the values.” Douglas Atkin
  • “Core values should not be defined by senior people only as they can indulge in wishful thinking.”

Links to resources mentioned in this episode


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