Saul Betmead of Y&R EMEA: what the success of Airbnb tells us about the future of business

Memories and moments will change the world. That was the view of Brian Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, who spoke at the Cannes Lions festival this week.

It might seem a rather vague – slightly trite – observation, but there’s little doubt that there has been a shift from people feeling the need to own things to them wanting to experience them – and then share that experience. Chesky would know more than most – Airbnb is built on this very principle and it now has a market capitalisation in excess of $20 billion.


Much has already been written about those companies that use technology rather than assets to disrupt traditional sectors. In Marxist terms, there’s been a shift in power from those that own the means of production to those that are able to corral it for the benefit of consumers. We’re all familiar with the mantra about how no one would have predicted that Facebook would be the biggest media owner but own no content and Uber would own no taxis etc.

It would take a fool to think that this process has finished – the next disruptor is just waiting in the wings. While Chesky and his colleagues may have initially struggled to get funding for Airbnb – it was christened by some sceptics as ‘the worst idea that ever worked’ – smart investors are much more willing to risk their money in case they hit a similar jackpot.

So if Chesky is right what does this all mean for brands? It suggests that they must put more effort into delivering experiences for consumers rather than just functionality or product benefit. The creation of events and brand activation will help them remain relevant – they will become embedded as a moment or a memory – rather than rely just on traditional advertising. Because, if Chelsky, is right – there’ll be a disruptor wanting to do the same and ready to seize the moment.

Betmead-2014011312094588Saul Betmead is chief strategy officer of Y&R EMEA.

Back to top button