Here's How Airbnb and Pixar Use Storytelling to Bring Great Experiences to Travelers

brought to you by WBR Insights

Storytelling is a powerful tool in marketing. The ability to weave a story to connect and engage with your customers can strengthen relationships which can then last a lifetime. Pushing the power of storytelling to new heights, Airbnb is teaming up with veteran animation studio Pixar to create amazing customer experiences.


Global hospitality marketplace Airbnb wanted to come up with a new way to design great experiences for its customers, and the first place it turned to was the words of legendary journalist Tom Wolfe. In his 1975 book of art criticism The Painted Word, Wolfe talks about the moment he first "got" the contemporary art movement and the rise of abstract paintings.

"All these years I, like so many others, had stood in front of a thousand, two thousand, God-knows-how-many thousand paintings," wrote Wolfe. "All these years, in short, I had assumed that in art, if nowhere else, seeing is believing. Well - how very short-sighted! Now, at last, on April 28, 1974, I could see. I had gotten it backward all along. 'Not "seeing is believing," you ninny, but "believing is seeing,"' for Modern Art has become completely literary - the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text."

It was in these words that Airbnb found the inspiration to create new experiences for their customers. Much like a work of art, planning experiences begins with questions. Questions, such as "How do we want to make people feel?" or "How do we want them to behave?" help shape any creative process.

This realization brought Airbnb to storytelling as a new philosophy of experience design. However, to put it into practice, they would need some help.


Customer experience is all about what the customer does, thinks, and feels at every step of their interaction with a brand - and even outside of those interactions. These are the stories which make up customer experience - and this is the magic Airbnb was looking to capture.

Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky was reading the biography of legendary filmmaker Walt Disney when he first learned of the technique known as storyboarding. This technique involves creating a comic book-like outline of the film's story and helps everyone involved in the making of it get an idea of the director's vision for the production and the progression of the plot.

Chesky decided storyboarding was how Airbnb was going to design the next generation of its customer experiences and dubbed the project "Snow White" as a nod to his muse.

A list was drawn up of all the moments - emotional and physical - which make up the Airbnb experience. These were shared around the company, with all members of staff being invited to add to the storyboards with their own thoughts and experiences. Then, to make the storyboards even more vivid and tangible, Airbnb hired an animator from legendary animation studio (and Disney offshoot) Pixar to illustrate the storyboards and bring them to life.

The next step was to create the perfect trip. To achieve this, Airbnb conducted an experiment where a single customer was offered the trip of a lifetime, with the intention of chronicling their experiences for the story. Airbnb spent tens of thousands of dollars to give this person the ultimate traveling experience, which became the foundation of what would become Airbnb Trips.

Airbnb Trips offers all customers the opportunity to augment their vacation with unforgettable experiences. Whether it's Coasteering in Cornwall or Sculpture in Paris, there is something to help all Airbnb customers add amazing stories to their own adventures.


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Augmenting this is a YouTube campaign which highlights the stories of real Airbnb customers and what they experienced during their time away. These stories are designed to delight and inspire Airbnb customers to go ahead and book their own unforgettable experiences with the brand.

Final Thoughts

From Snow White to storyboards to real experiences being enjoyed all over the world, Airbnb's storytelling venture is helping the company make sure their customers return home with incredible tales to tell.

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