What brands can learn from dating apps.

I generally like social media.

Not everything about it, but enough to engage on a semi-regular basis.

However I save my old-man-shaking-head-in-despair for one particular strand of the digital universe.

Online dating.

Back in the day, apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge would have come under the heading of ‘Lonely Hearts’. For those of a more tender age, these were columns in newspapers where people advertised for partners. They served a good purpose but there was also a whiff of sadness and desperation about them, at least from the point of view of the younger generation – who were busy getting drunk and sleeping with random people and only then deciding if they liked each other. Which, granted, presented its own problems.

These days it seems everyone has been co-opted in to the lonely hearts club band, transforming the world of dating and love in to an algorithm with exaggerated profiles and sober job-interview style dates in Sterile-bucks.

When I ask my younger agency colleagues about online dating their shoulders slump like a football team losing seven nil with ten minutes to go. They seem defeated yet resolved to it.

Of course, God forbid, if I ever find myself suddenly single and lonely I have to admit I would no doubt sign up to one of them.

I mean, there’s an estimated 91 million people using them. There would have to be someone out there willing to put up with me other than my wife.

I guess that’s what draws people in. The choice is unlimited but the chances of finding someone you click with remains the same.

But my despair of these apps is not due to the risk of scammers, the lies people tell (57% of people using online dating admit to lying on their profiles) the hackers (you are twice as likely to fall victim to a cybersecurity incident than those who don’t date online) or the dangers of meeting strangers in dodgy bars.

Although that might suffice.

The main reason I feel sorry for the generation who have to make it work for them is that apparently it has skewed the odds of finding someone special quite dramatically, in nobody’s favour.

70% of women on dating apps are after 10% of the men.

A whole generation of men with average incomes and average looks can’t use the charms that have served previous generations well, in bars or random chat up situations because this makes them a creep. And a generation of women are filtering them out for a small percentage of high achieving men who have too much interest to be healthy and no interest in settling down because they have too much female interest.

And vice versa. Most apps have more men than women which means that all those guys are bombarding the most attractive women (because we are fundamentally as shallow just in a more visual way) in to oblivion and ignoring the interesting ones.

And compatibility is all about the algorithm. Which doesn’t work because ‘chemistry’ refuses to be quantified.

So there.

Now, by what twisted logic can I manipulate this blog back to the topic of brands and advertising?

When I started researching this topic, I quickly landed on articles that explained why men fail at online dating. The correlation between some brands and how they behave in the marketplace was startling.

Despite years of brand positioning, archetype personas, manifestos, targeting and generally humanising brands to understand them better, we sometimes forget all the things that make humans desirable the minute we try and market them.

It appears men, like poor creativity, just plough on regardless.

One helpful article listed a few of the key mistakes men make when writing their profiles.

Apparently ‘your profile is not a used car ad’.

Like some pharma brands, men rattle off details about themselves like: Good listener/kind/spontaneous. As if women have a checklist or believe it – just because it’s listed in your details.

How often do we tell clients that just listing the data does nothing for them? They need to connect on a human level with ‘real world evidence’.

Conversely, two little info is just as bad. I’ve lost count of the number of ads I’ve seen that have some random idea, wizzy graphics or story and end with a logo that leaves me none the wiser as to what the product or service actually is.

Men’s photos are carp.

Or salmon or trout.

Modern single men like posting pics of themselves with fish apparently. I would put this in the ‘generic ideas with no imagination’ category. If you look like everybody else you don’t stand out.

Yet like so many brands, clients want to fit in with their category so that everyone will recognise that they are….in that category. It feels safe and if everyone is doing it it must work, right?

Men apparently love bad lighting and sunglasses. Ok, not everyone’s a photographer. But sunglasses are cool aren’t they?

The one thing that connects you to another human instantly is eye contact. If your brand doesn’t come across as someone you might want to know, forget about it.

If you don’t spend some time getting a decent pic of yourself, taken by someone else (nobody looks good in selfies as your arms are just too short) then it really isn’t helping you. But men have this self belief that women will see their innate handsomeness whatever the picture.

How many times have we heard clients claiming that we don’t really need an idea as this product will ‘sell itself’?

And it’s not about money or expensive shots by a pro (evidently a big turn-off in dating as its trying too hard and too hard-sell), if you don’t spend time on ‘the craft’ it shows.

The same with art direction, if it’s a good idea the craft should fit the concept and the brand. Are you Volkswagen or BMW? Some different choices to be made depending on who you want to attract or be.

Apparently men send ‘too many messages’.

This usually means they haven’t read their target’s profiles and they are just using scatter tactics. How often do you get targeted with online ads for a product minutes after you literally just bought that product. Just been to Tunisia? why not try more Tunisia holidays!

We recently conducted some online research with ophthalmologists who pleaded with our client to ‘stop trying to sell them stuff.’

The parallels are endless.

The point is the best advertising doesn’t make you feel you are being sold to. I guess the same goes for love.

So if your product isn’t good looking or high achieving, or even if it is, how you show up tells people everything they need to know.

So get the simple things right.

Allow enough budget for some production values, try not to be like everyone else in your category, make your profile interesting and look relatable and think of something more interesting to start a conversation than, ‘how are you?’.

Your brand will have more swipe-rights than it can handle.

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