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What Do Airbnb & Popcorn Have In Common!

Employer Branding Agency

This blog post is inspired by a podcast called ‘Masters of Scale’. In one episode we have Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn fame interviewing the Co-Founder & CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. Brian opens with the concept of designing a 7-star experience, which he then stretches to 11. His submission – for people to love and tell each other about your experience, for it to go viral, you have to push the envelope to double digits 


So, Airbnb took one part of their experience, the ‘checking in’, and went crazy with what the experience could possibly be.


Not quoting him verbatim, but what follows is pretty close:

1, 2 and 3 star: You get to the Airbnb and no one is there. No response at all is a 1 star and getting to see the host after 10 mins is a 3 star

5 star: You knock on the door, it’s opened promptly and you’re let in. Good, but it’s not a big deal

6 star: The host opens, says ‘hey I’m Tarun, come in’. I show you around the house and on the table is a welcome gift, a bottle of wine or some candy. In the fridge is water, in the bathroom a set of toiletries. Wow! You like this

7 star: Knock on the door, Tarun opens, says ‘here is my full kitchen, I know you like surfing, here is my surfboard, I have booked lessons for you and by the way here’s my car, you can use my car. And the best restaurant in the city, I got you a table there. Now, this is deeply personal. It’s like, this is one of the best experiences that you have ever gone to’

8 star check:  You land at the airport, and there is a limousine waiting for you. It knows your preferences and takes you to the house. A total surprise!

Now 9 star: You show up at the airport and there would be a parade in your honour and you would probably have an elephant waiting for you in a traditional Indian ceremony. You ride on the elephant and arrive at the house

10 star: ‘It would be the Beatles check-in 1964.  Get off the plane and there would be 5000 high school kids cheering your name welcoming you to the country. You get to the front yard of your house and there would be a press conference’

Please welcome 11 star: ‘You would show up at the airport and you will be there with Elon Musk and he would say you are going to space’

‘Maybe 9, 10 and 11 are not feasible, but if you go through the crazy exercise, there is some sweet spot between they showed up and opened the door and I went to space; that’s the sweet spot. And somewhere that sweet spot is feasible but also so remarkable that people will tell everyone about it… Suddenly does knowing my preferences and having a surfboard in the house not just seem reasonable, it just seems crazy logistically, but this is the kind of stuff that creates great experience’


Move over Brian, time for an intermission so we can grab a tub of popcorn.


Start at 3: Small packs for little un’s. They love to have their ‘own’ stash. Maybe fluorescent popcorn that glows a bit in the pack; a pack specially designed to minimise spillage

Move to 4: A little help goes far. For those who like squeaky clean hands after a deluge of hand greasing popcorn, a couple of wet wipes. And for the victims of a dreaded root canal, toothpicks or floss so the tension is only on screen

5 is Prime: ‘Look Ma, no seeds’. You are engrossed in the film, you race to the bottom of your popcorn tub and suddenly you are greeted with dozens of un-popped corn. A climax killer for most. For those who don’t find appeal in the crunchy seed, a seedless option

Halfway there, welcome 6:  For guests whose teeth have not fully formed or the segment that has a depleting set, popcorn that melts easily in the mouth without much effort. Age no bar!

The secret 7: It’s new, it’s different, a rage in the making. From the heart of Japan, a wave of ‘frozen popcorn’. A treat in equatorial geographies and a fresh way to experience a ‘brain freeze’

Made it to 8: An abundance of popcorn in colours that could compete with the shade card of a paint brand. Spaces for theatregoers to create ‘Pop Art’. On display in a gallery; go ahead, buy and devour

Fine 9: You’re feeling good today. Out with your old school friends after ages. You get to the cinema early and design a popcorn brand specifically for the alum. A collectible that you surprise your pals with

Perfect 10: For those familiar and initiated, this is a Nespresso moment. By your seat is a personal popper that functions in pin-drop silence. Pick a quantity, make your own flavour and pop a small batch. Keep the batches coming till you can have no more…

Starry 11: It’s a newly released film, the hall is full. But there is a seat empty next to you. You wonder! Halfway through the movie, someone comes and occupies that chair and holds out a tub of popcorn in front of you. Surprised, you turn round to look. OMG, it’s a film star you’re crazy about!

Phew! There you have it. Our very own 11 star wonder. Not wanting to sign off with a sermon; suffice to say if you’re looking to push the boundaries on experience, this is a brilliant journey to embark on. Thanks, Brian…

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