July 13, 2016

Marketing on Tinder – Love It or Leave It?


Chances are if you’re between the ages of 16 and 35, you’ve at least heard of Tinder. You’ve probably even used it at least once (if just “ironically”). For those who may be behind the times or otherwise out of the loop when it comes to dating in the digital age, Tinder is the mobile dating app that introduced phrases like “swipe right” and “swipe left” into the colloquial lexicon. Users are shown a snapshot of another user’s profile, including mutual friends, a photo and a bio. If they’re interested in chatting, they “swipe right” and hope for a match. If not? They “swipe left” and never see that person again.

Branded Profile Cards

Like any service, Tinder is seeking ways to monetize, and one tactic is through advertising. The app’s unique environment has led to what the company is calling, “branded profile cards.” Essentially, brands have Tinder profiles that users can interact with. There was some pushback after the film Ex Machina launched a fake female profile “bot” that behaved, for a while at least, like a real person before unveiling its promotional purpose. Since then, Tinder has included a “verified” blue check, similar to Facebook and Instagram, that denotes an authentic celebrity, actor, athlete or brand.

In entertainment, the branded profile cards make a lot of sense. Fictional characters become accessible at an incredibly intimate level. In addition to Ex Machina, Fox’s then-series The Mindy Project launched fake profiles of characters Mindy and Danny for fans to match with as promotion for the show in 2014. The most recent incarnation of characters being brought to life through Tinder is the Fox film Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – Pros and Cons

In keeping with the branded profile card tradition, the stars of the film, including Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Adam DeVine and Anna Kendrick, granted use of their images through Fox to Tinder. Their profiles are funny and in character, giving users a taste of the humor in the film and some familiarity with the characters. The campaign is creative and pointed, but it has also received some criticism; largely, that some users are feeling duped – in utter shock, apparently, that Aubrey Plaza hasn’t actually decided that they should meet up.

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  • Pros 
    • Creative Marketing – One of the biggest “pros” of the campaign is simply that it is creative. The campaign itself is memorable whether or not the movie proves to be. The fact that Reddit users are discussing their Tinder encounters with Mike and Dave means that at the very least the campaign is achieving recognition, discussion and awareness for the film.
    • Audience Targeting – Another boon for the campaign is that it lands directly in front of the right. The majority of Tinder users are single men in their mid-to-late twenties. Considering that the main protagonists in the film are also single millennial men it makes complete sense that the target audience for the movie could be reached on Tinder. If anything, it’s almost a perfect match.
  • Cons 
    • Is It Misleading? – One of the complaints from disheartened users is that the ads make them feel foolish or “taken.” But is this an issue with the practice, or an individual-level concern? Take Mike and Dave. The minute a user matches with one of these profiles they receive the following message:

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Not only this, but the main image for the profile includes the movie poster signage. While campaigns like Ex Machina may have been more sly about it – most users would likely be able to tell that these profiles are ads, despite the blue “celebrity” check. This transparency allows even disgruntled users to “laugh a little” at themselves and the cleverness of the campaign.

  • Does It Add Value? – This “con” is more of a philosophical question. A question of definitions and practices. With most sponsored content, the rule of thumb is that it should add value to the consumer. Articles, graphics and the like should be something that a user seeks out, not something that is shoved in front of a users face. With the branded profiles blending in with “content” on Tinder, are they technically branded content? If so, do they add value? Is entertainment value – the value of a chuckle – sufficient? Or are they just ads masquerading as earnest sponsored content?

It could be argued either way. Tinder gamifies dating in a way that does somewhat reduce the practice to superficial entertainment value, but if someone is truly looking for love then, yes, the Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates campaign feels like a worthless detraction from the purpose of the app.

So, Love It or Leave It?

In the end, the creativity and acute targeting of the campaign mark it as intelligent. It was a good move to seek out audiences on their phones, where they spend most of their time, and in particular on an app where their specific audience spends hours swiping and might get a laugh out of a profile that sticks out from the rest. When it comes to the negatives, the claims of deception and intrusiveness, there’s no doubt that Tinder’s most recent experimentation with branded profiles represents a more transparent brand experience. Users know, by the first message at least, that it’s an ad – whether or not they mind it is a different story to be told on more of a case-by-case basis.

Overall, kudos to the campaign for originality and delivering on entertainment value. Looking ahead, if Tinder continues to make positive adjustments based on negative feedback to their marketing practices, their branded profile model could become a lot more common and a lot more accepted by users.