Navigating the age of promiscuity: what brands can learn from Tinder

Regardless of what it says about our ever-shortening attention spans, brands would do well to learn a thing or two from Tinder addiction, writes PHD Australia's Mitchell Long.

As a millennial, it’s safe to say I’ve swiped my way through the perils of dating apps (usually while eating my morning fix of smashed avo on toast). Every day there are 1.6 billion swipes on Tinder, leading to 26 million matches, and resulting in 1 million dates per week… that’s a lot of exhausted thumbs, to say the least.

The rise of dating apps in the mainstream is set against broader trends in Aussie relationships. In the past 20 years, marriage has declined 15.5%, and those who do marry are doing so at an increasingly older age.

Meanwhile, studies also show the number of sexual partners Aussie women report having in their lifetime has increased over the past 10 years, as double standards erode between the sexes.

In short, fewer of us are getting married, and more of us are serial dating. But as I casually swipe left and right, I can’t help but notice how our relationships with brands are on a similar path (read in Carrie Bradshaw’s voice).

According to Accenture, there is $6.2 trillion consistently up for grabs globally due to accelerated brand switching, as two-thirds of consumers now consider significantly more brands or companies when making purchase decisions than they did 10 years ago.

Just as we’re becoming more fluid in our personal relationships, so too are we becoming more promiscuous towards brands.

In dating, “apps like Tinder and OkCupid give people the impression that there are thousands or millions of potential mates out there… [creating a] shift towards short-term dating,” says David Buss, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas.

Similarly, e-commerce has made the increasing number of brands challenging category conventions, or catering to new emerging needs, equally accessible. Having a greater range of options available at our fingertips, in turn, amplifies our cultural demand for novelty.

So, if this analogy holds true, when we peer beyond the shameless mirror selfies and cheesy one-liners, what is it that brands can learn from today’s dating game?

Grab their attention

It’s no surprise that attention is an increasingly scarce commodity. A 2015 Microsoft study found that the average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish (eight vs nine seconds), and dating is no exception.

Watch any Tinder user and you’d be amazed at the lightning speed at which swipes occur, with people often deciding whether they are interested or not within a fraction of a second.

This is mirrored in data from OKCupid, showing that what people write in their online profiles has less than 10% impact on how they are perceived by others on the platform.

This is a sobering reminder that in an increasingly cluttered world, people are even more apathetic towards the brands we champion than we wish to believe.

Some estimates even claim we’re now surrounded by as many as 5,000 ads per day. If we talk to friends outside of the adland bubble, we’re hard-pressed to find a person who genuinely recalls a recent piece of advertising they consciously took note of.

In a world of dwindling attention spans, the need to produce fame-inducing campaigns that people actually want to talk about is greater than ever. The IPA’s databank indicates campaigns designed to create fame deliver business results stronger than any other measurement goal, shattering the efficacy of more common intermediate metrics, such as awareness.

Be authentically you

Contrary to assumptions, research from the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney found that almost three in four Tinder users were just as inclined to seek a monogamous relationship as singles who hadn’t taken their search online. A further 14% stated they were even more inclined since using the technology.

Could it be that beyond the humble eggplant emoji, there is just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him? (Carrie Bradshaw’s voice returns).

For singles looking for love, this means authenticity isn’t optional, it’s a necessity. Being clear in intent and what you stand for is the only way a genuine match will recognise a potential connection.

If brands aim to have a longer-term love affair with consumers, they need to be clear on their values and be prepared to stand by them. Yes, taking a stand on something may alienate a few, but brands who are afraid of not being liked by everyone will inevitably be meaningful to no one.

In short…

In the age of promiscuity, brands wanting more than a one-night stand will have to work harder than ever to repeatedly win over consumers again and again.

This means:

  1. Anticipating new opportunities for interactions that add value
  2. Creating comms designed to drive social currency
  3. Having a point of view made credible by what they do, not only what they say

Brands that follow these steps may well snag a date, and who knows, they might even stick around for the long term.

Mitchell Long is strategy director at PHD Australia.


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