It started from a Facebook post that caught my eye.
‘This Facebook dating ad looks like it’s gentrifying Brooklyn. It smells like trust funds, rent destabilization, and unwashed armpits. If I saw this ad on the J train, I could taste that it hasn’t bathed in a week’, wrote my well-educated friend and Brooklyn-ite, Jack.
He wasn’t wrong.
In typical dating app fashion, the ad depicted a quirky Caucasian couple, having a cutesy and loving exchange, in an expensive looking brick walled environment. This couple, maybe not yet ‘in love’ but well on their way. The kind of ad that begs the phrase, ‘this could be you, but you’re playin’ so download MeetMindful immediately.
This isn’t the first time dating apps have tried to lure users with the promise of a happily ever after. And not surprisingly, because advertising is a promise but the message is insulting. Anyone who has used a dating app understands that they are more likely to end up in the apartment of a stranger who still lives with roommates, or on an awkward dinner date where they will split the bill, than in a trendy, well-lit, brownstone.
In most dating app ads, you see a montage of happy white, or very light-skinned black couples, on the brink of a moment, candidly enjoying each other. The promise of the dating app; you could be here. In the age of attribution, this type of aspirational advertising is misguided.
They Overvalue the Service
No dating app is the holy grail of finding love. The glorification of one app over another ignores the reality that it is culture not value that causes singles to look for love online. Although 40% of couples attribute their relationship to a dating app, this isn’t because apps deserve all of the credit. This skewed data point is due to the fact that culture is shifting. The opportunity to meet a significant other at work is diminished by new office romance policies.
The chance to meet through a friend or family member declines as more adults migrate for work. It is inevitable that business will replace what we once got from community. Given the opportunity single men and women would rather meet someone in person but inevitably don’t know where to meet. Dating apps have now replaced that popular bar, that was always good for meeting someone. But would anyone ever say, ‘bars don’t work.’ Of course not.
They Undervalue the Motive
Users are bored. The more appropriate way to market to users would be to address their core needs. Singles aren’t looking for love on a dating app, they are looking for attention. The allure of a dating app is entertainment. And the date; live entertainment. Dating has become a hobby. It’s become another trendy activity that singles engage in like indoor rock climbing, or crossfit. While at drinks with co-workers, they can swipe right or left, and surreptitiously make arrangements to meet up with someone from a dating app. This allows them to avoid the alternative, heading home to no one, and binging on the latest Netflix release.
They Aren’t Honest
The best tag line for a dating app would be – where you meet all the people you would meet in real life if you weren’t afraid of talking to strangers. Statistically, less than of 10% matches actually meet in person. Even though singles have the choosing down, they are still afraid to open themselves up to a stranger. Only those who are aggressively dating will be courageous enough to make the date.
Dating apps need to make the promise that you can meet people, whenever you want. That is the allure. Sure, you could go to the bar, or gym, but who has time for that. You are in control of who you want to meet, and flirt with – and that feels good. The audacity of dating apps to sell love, and coupling as a unique selling point is over ambitious. This marketing is stolen directly from the Match.com playbook, dating apps lost sight of one key difference. Online dating was designed for single adults stuck in the suburbs with no means of meeting someone in their demographic. Because the service was PC based, it was natural to plan the date with intention because it meant getting out of your home.
Mobile apps have no location restrictions. Singles are actively swiping on the train, at work, after a workout, etc. They are in public, where they could easily make a connection but choose to see what profiles they missed on Tinder, or who responded to their last messages. Why? Attention. The real world will ignore you.
The jig is up. Dating apps don’t have to find you love, to work, they just have to be fun to use. The promise that a relationship is around the corner via the next new app is marketing from 2014 but in the year 2020. Bumble has taken advantage of this by expanding its services including BumbleBizz and BumbleBFF. There is more to Bumble than swiping, and users appreciate the ability to use the app cross functionally. No more meet the man of your dreams, it’s meet anyone and everyone.
Adults understand that they have a better chance meeting their soulmate on Instagram than on a dating app, but the apps haven’t adjusted. Dating apps can adjust by marketing in the year that we actually live. The flexibility to meet people where ever you are is the real appeal, and any app that makes it fun will be successful.