Bebo co-founder sends cease and desist to Airbnb after logo revamp

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Michael Birch, the co-founder of recently revived social network Bebo, has sent a cease and desist document to apartment and rental firm Airbnb after claiming its widely discussed logo redesign is in breach of Bebo’s ‘genital marketing’ trademark.

The new Airbnb logo was unveiled last week in a blog post entitled ‘Belong Anywhere’, with the logo attempting to signify several things, the key one being a sense of human connection and belonging:

Picture credit: Airbnb

“The rewards you get from Airbnb aren’t just financial, they’re personal, for hosts and guests alike,” co-founder Brian Chesky wrote.

“At a time when new technologies have made it easier to keep each other at a distance, you’re using them to bring people together. And you’re tapping into the universal human yearning to belong – the desire to feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who you are, no matter where you might be.”

This ‘bring the world together in perfect harmony’ routine does have a saccharine stench to it, which may have been part of the reason why the logo was mercilessly teased on social media, with a Tumblr blog dedicating itself to defacing the new brand.

And it’s in this spirit that Birch has added his voice to the debate.

“I contend that the visual representation of genitals has become an iconic, strong, firmly associate image with the Bebo brand worldwide,” he wrote in the document, adding: “The phallic nature of the Airbnb logo has the potential to confuse, conflate, and deceive the general public.

“Furthermore, continued practice of Genital Marketing is likely to falsely create the impression that Airbnb is associated with, affiliated to, or as funny as Bebo.”

It’s evident here that this document shouldn’t be taken entirely seriously – yet Birch has backed up his statement and made a self-deprecating bet on Bebo’s brand image before its relaunch as a mobile site last August.

In a video accompanying the launch, Birch described Bebo’s Whiteboard feature as “arguably the single biggest respository of illustrated cock and balls ever recorded.”

The cease and desist document also included some rather dubious user testing:

Picture credit: Bebo

Regardless of the less-than-serious nature of this enquiry, Airbnb did have a battle on its hands with Automation Anywhere, a tech company which had a rather similar logo. However Airbnb has said that the two companies came to an agreement before the relaunch.

Read more: Bebo relaunch: How to resurrect a failing social brand

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