A branding balls up? Airbnb’s new logo tickles the puerile

There are a range of logos and ads that feature unintentional (or occasionally intentional) genitalia. And Airbnb, the extremely popular “global community marketplace that connects travelers seeking authentic, high-quality accommodations with hosts who offer unique places to stay”, appears to have added its name to that list with the launch of its new brand identity ‘Belong Anywhere’. 

As chief executive Brian Chesky explained

In 2007, Joe and I opened our home up to the first Airbnb guests. They booked a place to stay, but they ended up with something more than just an airbed at a slightly messy apartment. They learned our favorite places to grab coffee, ate the best tacos in the city, and had friends to hang out with whenever they wanted. They were thousands of miles from where they lived, and yet they felt right at home.

What started as a way for a few friends to pay the rent has now transformed into something bigger and more meaningful than we ever imagined. And what we realized is that the Airbnb community has outgrown the original Airbnb brand. So Joe, Nate, and I did some soul-searching over the last year. We asked ourselves, “What is our mission? What is the big idea that truly defines Airbnb?”

It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere.

That is the idea at the core of our company: belonging.

It’s visualised that idea with the ‘Belo’ symbol, which, s TechCrunch says, “looks like an upper-case ‘A’ that has the familiar symbol for location on a map inside”. But the internet seems to think it looks like either a butt, boobs, a vagina or testicles (Digiday has pulled out some of the best/most puerile reactions to it). 

It’s also launched Create Airbnb, which lets everyone create their own unique symbol/testicles/boobs/butt/vagina under its shared banner.

This homemade symbol can be as unique as every one of us, and it will always be a little different whenever you meet it. So we want you to make your own unique symbol, and we’ll help you bring your story to life with merchandise that showcases the experience you’re proud to provide. But most of all, Create Airbnb is a recognition that our identity simply cannot be separated from all of you. This is a shared brand identity. It’s something no company has ever done before.

As well as the logo change, it’s also redesigned the entire Airbnb experience “to better reflect the people who make up this community.

Our shared vision of belonging is the thread that weaves through every touchpoint on Airbnb. We have redesigned every single page of the user experience across the web and mobile to bring our new identity to life. Now we have a platform that reflects your feedback, and that can continue growing as we keep listening.

Given all the publicity it’s getting, perhaps genital-based logos are the way forward. Vend’s Vaughan Rowsell seems to think so. 

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