The Van Gogh Bnb project was designed primarily to promote “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms”, an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago which featured three of Van Gogh’s domestic paintings from the late 1880s. The idea was simple and compelling: lovingly recreate Van Gogh’s ‘Yellow Room’ as a fully functioning, three dimensional bedroom, and let it out to members of the public through a listing on Airbnb.
Visitors came in their thousands, and many of those people shared tales of their stay online. Within just one week of the project’s public launch, its story had been covered by media outlets in over 100 countries.
As a direct result of the Van Gogh Bnb’s success, The Art Institute of Chicago trended on Facebook and experienced a 250% spike in online ticket sales. The project received a Gold Award at the Cannes Design Lions in June.
Speaking to Cannes Lions attendees, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky suggested the Van Gogh Bnb could provide the model for a new type of Airbnb experience: “What we want to do is turn this into a platform, and we want to invite any creative or brand to create something like the Van Gogh piece.”
“The reason I think the Van Gogh piece was so successful is that people want to have an intimate connection with brands. There is almost nothing more intimate than to sleep in someone’s home.”
Learning from the Van Gogh Bnb’s success
“People want to have an intimate connection with brands”
Brian Chesky is on to something there. Even brands that mainly operate via digital platforms need to be open, approachable and human in order to appeal to the average customer. Not every customer desires the up-close-and-personal relationship Chesky describes (and not every situation demands it), but most customers do want close contact with the brand to be openly available. Approachability and demonstrable personal investment build trust and court conversions; remoteness engenders suspicion.
Committing to great ideas
At the outset of the Van Gogh Bnb project, a huge amount of trust was placed on the value of a single great idea. The resources required for the design, execution and marketing of the project must have been considerable – from the skilled craftspeople hired to plan and create the room design to the bespoke furnishings used in-production.
Successfully carrying through an idea on this scale requires serious reputational commitment too – a lukewarm success will leave you close to Square One, while a popular failure could even damage the brand. Achieving a marketing success like the Van Gogh Bnb requires a fantastic concept, and a great deal of faith and courage to put behind it.
The players in the partnership behind this project were a critical factor in helping it ring true – who better than an art gallery and an accommodation portal to collaborate on turning an artist’s room into a Bnb?
Every detail of the project came across as authentic – none more so than the room itself, which was crafted with an eye for historical accuracy in a convincing impressionist style. Consumers care about passion and professionalism, so make sure your marketing exhibits both.