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I was on Tinder, for a week. Yes, I’m married. Don’t worry, it was an approved experiment. Let me take a half-step back. Every month I pick 1 new social platform to experiment with. In the past that’s lead to a month with Vine, EyeEm, SnapChat and others. The month I spend with a platform is designed to:

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At home with Tinder: Romance reduced to an app?

Make me smarter and more knowledgable about the platform
Help me understand the customer experience for the platform and what, if anything, we can glean from it to enhance our digital, mobile and social products and capabilities
Enable me to speak intelligently about the marketing opportunities for the organization. I’ve always felt that it rings a bit hollow to offer a perspective on an opportunity, without actually being someone who’s actually used the platform…not just read Mashable’s writeup about it.

With that in mind, I recently connected with a sales rep from IAC. Now, you might be scratching your head about IAC. They’re the holding company organization that owns Match.com, OKCupid.com and yes, Tinder. IAC is no small fish and from an advertising reach standpoint, they’ve proven to have a very sustainable digital advertising/marketing business. So when someone from IAC said there are some amazing things we could do together, including some future opportunities on Tinder…

Far be it for me to say that there’s no marketing opportunity for our organization there. Yet up until a week ago, screen grabs, write-ups and jokes on late night TV was everything I knew about Tinder.

Before I explain what I learned and what I think, let me first share the ground rules I had for using Tinder:

  • I Swiped right for everyone. Everyone. (Ok, technically, not everyone, because if I saw someone was related to someone I knew, I swiped left. I didn’t want to get into explaining this experiment/trial to a friend.
  • I was 100% focused on the advertising and marketing opportunities. I didn’t read bios, I didn’t look at picture sets, etc. I just focused on the potential marketing opportunities.
  • If there was a match, I didn’t message a user, nor did I respond to anyone’s messages to me. I wasn’t here to find a “date”, I was here to understand the how to potentially use Tinder to sell stuff.

So with that out of the way, here’s a marketer’s point of view about Tinder.

  1. It will have an ongoing, but limited user base. If you believe that people date multiple people, then date 1 person, then get engaged, then get married, Tinder plays in the dating part of the lifecycle. As people mature out of dating to just dating 1 person, Tinder will lose active users, but those users will always be back-filled by new user entering the dating lifecycle. This could be people new to dating or people who have exited a relationship are back at step 1 of the dating lifecycle.
  2. Dating sites are usually manual-entry driven. That leads to inaccurate data. Tinder is built on the best, richest, most accurate data set ever, in the history of marketing: Facebook. As a marketer, I’d feel better about targeting ads on Tinder than I would on Match.com.
  3. Being a mobile-only platform is also intriguing because it brings in location based data for the purposes of marketing. This would allow us to be more contextually relevant than relying on user entered location info.
  4. Tinder’s entire customer experience is genius. It’s a fantastic game. Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. It’s fun. The layering of push notifications keeps you coming back in. Notifications make sense, in this case. Someone swiped you back. Someone sent a message. These are both things that stoke the flames of our natural curiosity and keep us using the app. I’m sure their daily active user rate is off the charts. If my goal is frequency of messaging, Tinder’s model is intriguing.
  5. Scale and frequency are great. Most companies want to make sure that they’re marketing is on brand and it’s reaching the right users (demographics, psychographics, etc.). For most companies, then, Tinder is probably a fantastic option. But, I believe you need to go a little deeper; you need context. Just as it would be somewhat insensitive for Kleenex to run Facebook ads targeted at people who recently changed their relationship status from married to divorced, does an advertiser really want to be “talking” to people while they’re having personal conversations and looking for Mr./Mrs. right, even as joked about, it’s Mr./Mrs. “right now”? I’m not sure and I’m sure for some companies, the answer is yes.
  6. The user experience that Tinder created is fun. I know I already mentioned that, but let me talk about it from a different angle. The experience is so intuitive and smart, that it won’t be long before see it adopted across an entire host of categories. For example, imagine Tinder’s interface leverage for recipes or if Netflix were to adopt it rather than their current method for building out a customer profile. The 1 button sign up, combined the simple aspect of swiping, is brilliant. I think we’ll see it become a widely adopted model, just as the the “pull to refresh” interface has been copied by just about everyone.

Taking my marketer hat off for a second, I have to say, Tinder is equal parts future and sad state of the world. The game mechanics make “dating” fun. If I were in the dating market, I could completely understand the appeal. It’s simple to join. Simple to participate. Simple to stay informed. But, it does reduce us all to a headshot.

Maybe that’s reality and Tinder, like the Matrix, is showing us what reality, truly is. That as much as we talk about looks not mattering, and beauty being more than skin deep, the reality is we’re all visual people and a headshot is in fact the bast way to find compatibility.

I sure hope that’s not the case. I’d like to believe that dating is still about the butterflies we get from a voice, a moment, a single touch, a look, a whisper and of course the grand gesture.

With Tinder, everything is instant. As a marketer, that’s exciting. As a hopeless romantic, I want to believe that finding a match, goes beyond a swipe and is more along the lines of what Pablo Neruda once wrote:

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By the way, you won’t find me on Tinder anymore. I deleted my account (surprisingly easy) and the app.

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A thought-leader in the marketing community, Adam Kmiec is widely admired for his lively parries at the status quo. His challenges are grounded in solid experience at some of the most digitally forward-thinking organizations in the world, helping brands find success in the interactive and social space. In January he joined Walgreens as Senior Director, Social Media and Content. Prior to that, he held leadership positions at the Campbell Soup Company, where for the past two years he served as Director of Global Digital Marketing and Social Media. At Campbell, he developed global digital marketing and social media strategies across consumer-facing and corporate communications. Adam’s career spans the client and agency sides, including Fallon, Leo Burnett, and ConAgra Foods. His posts appear regularly at TheKmiecs.com, where this article originally appeared. Follow him @adamkmiec

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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