CMO 50: Hiroki Asai

Global head of marketing, Airbnb

Travel ground to a halt in 2020 and somehow, Airbnb pulled through. But not without a few bruises. The vacation and rental booking platform took a hit in March 2020 as it refunded travelers for abruptly canceled trips. But the decision angered hosts, many of whom rely on Airbnb for their livelihood. As bookings began to recover over the summer, Airbnb adapted its product and messaging to highlight local road trips, rural getaways and cleaning protocols, and began offering discounts on months-long stays for digital nomads. 

Hiroki Asai, an 18-year Apple marketing vet behind the launch of the iPhone, joined as Airbnb’s global head of marketing in August. At the time, Airbnb was in the midst of a radical shift towards brand marketing and away from performance, leading it to slash overall marketing spend by 58% in 2020 — with no plans to return to prior investment levels. 

After seeing the company through its delayed IPO in December, Asai steered Airbnb’s first global brand campaign in five years, Made Possible By Hosts, which aimed to mend its relationship with hosts while attracting more people to sign up to host on the platform. Airbnb, which is also making a massive investment in PR, kick-started the Superhost Relief Fund, which raised $17 million for struggling hosts, and put 9.2 million shares in an endowment fund for hosts.

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