Has Tinder made online dating cool?
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Has Tinder made online dating cool?

Seventeen years ago, online dating was not a new concept – Match.com launched in 1995. But it was also not a ‘cool’ concept. The widespread belief at the time was that going online to find love represented a failure, and those that did so must be in possession of some awful flaw. Today, things couldn’t be more different, and online dating is seen as a viable – and in some cases, preferable – alternative to cruising singles bars or making awkward small talk in cafes. What was the catalyst for this cultural change? Hookup app Tinder.

Match Group’s share price has soared 6% over the week


SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

Traditional dating sites like Match.com and OkCupid suffered from two design flaws that only become apparent when you view them against their newest bedfellow in the Match Group’s stable, Tinder. First, they took a really long time to set up. Profiles were exhaustive and required – this actually meant that dating online was less convenient than going out and meeting someone. As a result, negative stereotypes abounded: surely, you would only go to all that trouble if you couldn’t go out and meet someone. And who wants to jump into a dating pool filled with people who couldn’t (metaphorically) swim without armbands?

Second, sites like Match.com have suffered from very uncool branding in the past. Unfortunately, branding matters in business just as much as looks matter in love. While these might be unpleasant truths, they are truths nonetheless – and younger consumers in particular don’t feel engaged by chronically un-hip companies.

Tinder changed all that. First, it responded perfectly to the mobile age. Designed as an app, mobile came first – and that meant that it had to be easy to get on Tinder. No lengthy set up times: upload a picture, write a brief bio, and you’re good to go. Second, it uses a gamified system that can, allegedly, become quite addictive. You swipe left or right to indicate whether you like a person, and get to see whether or not they like you in response. Statistics suggest that 44% of students who use Tinder just swipe to pass the time and “boost their confidence”. That’s a powerful indication of how much fun the app is to use.

Second, Tinder branded itself far better than its predecessors. Forget romance – this is not the digital equivalent to awkward singletons being set up with a stranger by a pitying friend. This is a hook-up app: this is the digital equivalent of going to a club and picking up an attractive member of the opposite sex for a bit of fun. Gone was the reek of desperation – and present was the laid-back element of fun and sexiness.

There are indications that Tinder’s branding is more or less skin deep. According to Match, 80% of the app’s users are actually looking for a “meaningful relationship”. And since the app was launched, public perception of online dating as a whole has become more favourable by 15%. Match has built on Tinder’s success by rolling out the same quality of branding and gamified style to their other sites, while retaining different propositions (such as dating for over 50s). It’s taken a long time to get online dating mainstream – but now it’s there, there’s no going back!


Dominion holds the match Group in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.

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