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Will Airbnb’s new genitalia-esque logo hurt their brand?

July 20, 2014
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airbnb logo Will Airbnbs new genitalia esque logo hurt their brand?

The excitement of a new logo

Have you ever been super excited about something you created – so stoked that you couldn’t wait to tell everyone you knew about it? But when you showed them they just laughed at you? And made fun of you for it for the rest of your life? Poor Airbnb. Or genius Airbnb, some say.

It is hard to believe the company could have anticipated the apparently spontaneous ridicule and satirical re-design of their new logo that spread quickly on social media (like this Tumblr page which is not safe for work). Actually, further bewildering people, they say their new symbol is not a logo, but instead is a belo. Belo is supposed to stand for how the symbol is designed to make people feel a sense of ‘belo’nging. Kind of like how the Coca-Cola logo makes you feel cola-y and the Bic pen logo makes you feel bic-y?

bar Will Airbnbs new genitalia esque logo hurt their brand?
It seems that the company did foresee some confusion caused by the logo because they went to the length of creating a video to describe how the logo – beyond making one feel a sense of belonging – is also supposed to represent love, people, places, and the letter “A.” If you have to go to such effort to explain your logo, is it doing its job Airbnb is actually explaining what many seem to take as a joke.



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Now, I am not a logo design expert. I study how companies can plan for problems, avoid them, and diminish the ones that pop up. Part of the process of anticipating/avoiding problems is to imagine others’ reaction to things your company plans to do.

An early logo for a current political candidate in Texas, for instance, had a design that appeared to depict a boat sinking. Once that meme spread about the logo, it was hard to look at the image without seeing a sinking ship and seemed hard to understand how the designers could have missed it. Likewise with the new Airbnb logo – generally a symbol placed upside down indicates a lack of the thing that symbol represents or distress.

Could Airbnb not have anticipated some of the juvenile musings that would be generated? Not to mention that, as others have brought up, the logo is almost identical to other companies’ logos.

So what should Airbnb do now?

With the expense of the design and the claimed principles that were developed behind it, the company really cannot likely afford to scrap this design and start all over. And while they probably wish so many people were not making fun of the logo and comparing it to various body parts, the logo likely will not truly hurt the company.

Their communication should essentially be to sheepishly shrug and say, “Ha, yeah, we can see how some people see funny things in the logo, but over time, we’re confident it will come to stand for these principles which are the foundation of our company.”

Plus, after so much news about it, the logo will instantly be recognized as representing the company by a much larger number of people than had the logo been spread by normal marketing efforts.

If you are considering a large rebranding or marketing effort, to avoid distracting difficulties, simply check with a few outside, unassociated sources to get a fresh look at the identity you are trying to create for yourself. It could save you a lot of belo-ache.

David Holmes, owner of Intrepid Solutions, has over 20 years experience planning for, avoiding, and solving crises in the public policy, political, and private sectors. David is also a professional mediator and has worked in the Texas music scene.


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