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JONATHAN MILDENHALL

From a council estate in the north of England to top advertising agencies in London and then super-brands in the US, Airbnb’s Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Mildenhall knows just how to sell himself as well as the companies he represents, and gives Winq an insight into the changing face of marketing

I’m Jonathan Mildenhall’s first call of the day. He doesn’t set the scene, but while I’m calling from slate-grey London, I imagine him sitting in a gleaming office in San Francisco — the kind where employees are encouraged to take afternoon naps in hammocks — with a pang of jealousy. Jonathan, a just-turned 50-year-old Brit, has worked at Silicon Valley success story Airbnb as Chief Marketing Offic sice 2014, when he was headhunted by the travel startup’s co-founder Brian Chesky. Chesky had been impressed by his marketing work at Coca-Cola North America, but the call came like a bolt from the blue for Jonathan, who had envisioned working at Coke until his retirement.

At the time, Airbnb had around 400,000 homes for rent on its digital platforms, a figure that pales in comparison to today’s four million, giving the global super-brand a valuation of $31 billion. After Jonathan’s initial hour-long meeting with Brian turned into a full evening of back-and-forth discussions — including whether Brian was serious about the application of creative marketing (spoiler alert: he was) — he was hired as Airbnb’s new marketing maestro. “I got very excited,” recalls Jonathan, “because I realised that if I had the backing of the founders, then there was no reason why Airbnb couldn’t become the brand that defi nes this generation — like Coca-Cola, Nike, Disney and Apple had done previously.”

Since then, he’s built up awareness of the Airbnb brand and created advertising campaigns that challenge the parameters of traditional marketing, embracing a 21st-century approach.

When and how did you first discover a passion for marketing?

I came from a council estate in the north of England, and my mum had five different boys to three different men, all by the age of 27. We didn’t have much money and I shared a bedroom with my two younger brothers until I was 17 years old. One day, just before my 16th birthday, I said to my mum, “Mum, I know what I want for my birthday this year. I want a subscription to Vogue.”

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