Company: Airbnb and 23andMe
Campaign: Heritage Travel
Agency partners: In-house (creative, communications, media relations, PR), Onclusive (media measurement and analytics)
Duration: Spring/Summer 2019
Airbnb and 23andMe partnered up to help consumers to discover their heritage through a DNA test, and then receive a customized itinerary featuring travel and local experiences based on the results.
Planning for the campaign began in the spring, ahead of the summer travel season. In April, Airbnb commissioned a study of more than 8,000 Americans, which found heritage travel was on the rise. More than 50% of respondents said they’d previously traveled to at least one country of their ancestry.
To capitalize on this trend, Airbnb partnered with 23andMe, allowing consumers to take a DNA test and get customized travel itineraries and local recommendations based on the results. According to Sarah Roy, data and insights lead on Airbnb’s communications team, the goal was two-fold: to get people to explore their heritage through genetic testing and engage with their roots, either through local cultural heritage Airbnb experiences or by booking a trip.
The first step was conducting the consumer research study on heritage travel, which was handled by Onclusive.
Airbnb then worked on creating a carousel of pre-selected homes and experiences that linked to a vanity URL, and was sent to consumers based on their 23andMe results. The two companies jointly handled consumer research, product integration and owned and earned media executions.
The campaign launched on May 21 with a joint blog post, which explained what heritage travel is, why it’s becoming more popular, and how 23andMe and Airbnb can help consumers participate in the trend.
"If a 23andMe customer has Southern Italian ancestry, they might be able to find a trullo in Puglia as a home base to explore their heritage," the blog post explained. "Or someone with Mexican roots could find an experience in Mexico City to learn ancient techniques of natural dye as part of their heritage vacation."
The post was translated into several different languages, and the campaign was pitched to local media outlets across the globe.
Airbnb also posted a video to YouTube about heritage travel as a trend.
Owned and earned media for the campaign generated more than 10,000 social media engagements, according to Onclusive data. Airbnb’s trend video on YouTube has received 145,000 views and 1,000 engagements on social media.
In roughly the first month of the campaign, the partnership generated about 200 earned media placements, including in well-known science and travel publications such as Stat News, Conde Nast Traveler, Vox, and Afar.com.
"The coverage was truly global," Roy said. "The story has been picked up across many regions, which is unique because most of our campaigns are regional in places like Korea, Brazil, France and other markets."
The companies also conducted a survey with Morning Consult after the campaign launched, which found that it increased people’s likelihood of considering a heritage trip. Before being exposed to the campaign, 21% of U.S. adults said they were "not at all likely to consider traveling to learn about their family heritage." That figure dropped to 12% after they watched the campaign’s trend video and 15% after reading the blog post.