Musa Tariq on Why He Left Ford and Landed at Airbnb

When his last gig ended, Musa Tariq took six months off in Central Michigan to contemplate the next step in his career—but it would take a cross-country trip before he found his answer.

At the 2019 Brandweek summit, Tariq, head of marketing for Airbnb Experiences, was joined onstage by Adweek’s chief community officer Nadine Dietz to talk about why he left Ford, how he came to the home-sharing site, and the advice he gives to his peers in the marketing world.

After joining Ford in January 2017 as the car manufacturer’s chief brand officer, Tariq lasted a little over a year before a restructuring forced him out.

“It was such an iconic company, and to be a chief brand officer [of a brand] that size sounded amazing,” Tariq recalled. After the leadership change happened, “I realized the culture wasn’t for me. … I wasn’t enjoying myself.”

He decided to take the next six months off, a privilege he acknowledges that was aided by the low cost of living in Michigan.

When he was first approached by Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO, about leading the marketing effort behind Airbnb Experiences, Tariq asked to go “live” the product before making a decision.

First, he took a paper marbling class in Portland, Ore. Then, a pottery class in San Francisco. Last was a dumpling-making class in Detroit.

“I spent two hours doing them, and in each instance I felt like a better person,” he said. “I love watching Netflix or Hulu for two hours … but I never leave feeling like I’m a better person when it’s over. [With Airbnb Experiences] I was learning in a way I appreciated.”

Today, Tariq is the global head of marketing for Airbnb Experiences, the home-sharing site’s rapidly expanding sightseeing and cultural immersion platform through which property owners offer their expertise to visitors on curated excursions.

Airbnb was also among the investors that put $20 million into growing Atlas Obscura, a media company with its own travel and experience business dedicated to uncommon experiences. It also led the $60 million Series C round for Tiqets, a museum experiences platform popular in Europe. And the Olympics could be next.

On the same day as Tariq’s Brandweek talk, Chesky announced that Airbnb would be taking the “most significant steps towards designing trust on the platform” since its launch in 2008 by verifying all of its listings by 2020 and other measures designed to keep its clients safe. The announcement came after a particularly bad week for Airbnb, in which a shooting at a so-called party house rented through the platform left five people dead, and Vice uncovered a potential nationwide scam involving bait-and-switch properties.

When asked about what advice he gives to marketers and his peers, Tariq said to think of your career as a book.

“I started thinking about every path and part in my life as a chapter; ‘What is the story I’m going to tell in this chapter?’” he said. “Take that time and write down on a piece of paper a plan for your life—put that plan in place.”

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