Zerobnb’s new language of persuasion

The only way is ethics

It’s been building. Iceland’s now famously banned advert spoke movingly about endangered orangutans, but hardly mentioned frozen food. Last week a pop-up in Carnaby Street saw people queuing to buy gifts for refugees. Suddenly, caring is the new black. More and more it seems consumers want to identify with brands’ values and missions not just buy from them. In an era when they are inundated by so many competing messages, establishing an emotional link like this is becoming crucial.​

Zerobnb, an eco-friendly alternative to Airbnb, represents a new way of doing this. It offers an accommodation directory that lists only sustainable properties. It’s the brainchild of renewable fuel company Neste, who created a zero-impact Nolla cabin property and listed it on Airbnb. Then they noticed there was no option to filter by sustainability. Zerobnb’s response was daring and headline grabbing:

“Tourism causes almost a tenth of global emissions…. We’re not asking for much. We just want Airbnb to add a new category for sustainable home options. After that, we can get rid of Zerobnb.”​

Subvert to convert

It’s not big and it’s not clever to simply criticise competitors. Nor does it particularly endear customers to your brand. Rather, it can result in others picking holes in your own proposition. Here Zerobnb’s jab at Airbnb feels playful not aggressive. The suggestion that it will shut down when Airbnb adds the filter is a nice touch of modesty and conciliation. It’s an original, subversive technique that comes across as natural and human. Above all it’s memorable.​

Of course, not everyone could pull this off. The irreverent tone probably wouldn’t be right for a bank. However, brands who hit this sort of personable note are likely to strike a chord. Social media is encouraging a world where consumers are less likely to seek top-down guidance from ‘experts’ and instead look for support from peers – or brands that come across as peers.

See how brands can reach the hyper-stimulated consumer

How quiet voices are being heard amongst the noise
Why brands must become their fans

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