This weekend, a few lucky individuals will sleep in a hotdog on wheels, thanks to Oscar Mayer. In July, the hot dog maker owned by Kraft Heinz listed its iconic Wienermobile, a 27-foot-long van shaped like a hotdog, on Airbnb for $136 a night. The Wienermobile will be available for three nights only and will be parked in close proximity to Lollapalooza, the music festival now happening in Chicago.
In recent years, brands have discovered that Airbnb is more than just a home-sharing service; it can be a particularly effective marketing tool. Like Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile, which counts more than 22,000 consumer interactions on social media since the start of its campaign, IKEA has pitched its showroom to overnight guests. Even businesses not known for bedroom furniture like Taco Bell have offered to let customers sleepover.
Some of these nightly stays are awarded through contests that people must enter to win, while others are available to anyone willing to pay. And while this strategy tends to be deployed by bigger companies, a brand need not be massive to benefit, says Jeffery Carr, a marketing and entrepreneurship professor at New York University's Stern School of Business.
"The Wienermobile is just such an iconic thing. Everyone knows about it, even if you've never seen one on the street," says Carr. But really, he adds: "It comes down to the uniqueness of the experience that the brand can offer."
Take for example, the short-lived one-room hotel from the Venice, California-based bedding and towels maker, Parachute. The penthouse space, which the company pitched for $600 a night, also doubled as a testing studio to try out new lines. While this particular room wasn't on offer through Airbnb, the idea was the same.
Here are some of the more unusual ways businesses have used Airbnb as a marketing tool:
A Night with the Mona Lisa
Airbnb and the Louvre announced a contest this past April in which one winner landed a night's stay at the Louvre Museum at the end of the month. After a personal tour, the winning couple--a man and woman from Newcastle, England--were wined and dined near famous art works including Leonardo DaVinci's Mona Lisa and the ancient Greek statue the Venus de Milo. They slept under a replica of the Louvre's famous glass pyramid, designed to commemorate the structure's 30th anniversary. This lucky pair was chosen from a pool of 182,000 applicants. The release, billed as a partnership between Airbnb and the Louvre, was widely covered in the press and a promotional YouTube video of the event has been viewed more than 130,000 times.
Tacos, Tacos, Tacos!
Taco Bell recently announced the launch of its pop-up hotel in Palm Springs, which sold out in two minutes when it became available June 27. This wasn't the Mexican food chain's first foray in hospitality, however; Taco Bell teamed up with Airbnb in 2016 for a contest in which one lucky winner and three guests could sleep over in one of its stores in Ontario, Canada. The "SteakCation," as the company called it, was named for the Steak Doubledilla, a new menu item launched around the same time. The experience included a private dinner, snacks, entertainment and games, a private Taco Bell Butler, and a continental breakfast in the morning. Though the contest was only open to Canadian residents, it received international media attention from taco fans everywhere.
In 2017, LEGO offered one lucky family a visit to the iconic LEGO house in Billund, Denmark. The winners received a one-night stay in the 129,000 square-foot hotel--which is made with approximately 25 million bricks--with meals and activities included. The stunt was a hit: Airbnb received more than 24,000 application submissions from hopeful LEGO fans.
The Potato Pad
In April, Airbnb unveiled an unusual listing available for booking in Boise, Idaho: a studio in the shape of a giant potato that goes for $200 a night. The Idaho Potato Commission originally made the potato in 2012 to commemorate its 75th anniversary. The 6-ton fake vegetable did several cross-country turns on the back of a semi-truck before settling down in its current locale, a 400-acre farm. Former tour spokesperson Kristie Wolfe designed the one-bedroom home. While the vacation home has received plenty of positive press, it's unclear how well the potato has been booking, as Wolfe could not be reached in time for publication.