In 2014 Whitney Wolfe Herd, one of the co-founders of Tinder, left
to start a rival dating app. She set up Bumble to put women in control
of making the first move: unlike other dating apps, once members
of the opposite sex have matched on Bumble, only women have
the option to strike up a conversation.
Bumble’s stance of female empowerment extends beyond the product,
however. The women-founded and women-led company has a blog
called ‘The Beehive’, where it often calls out examples of misogynistic
behaviour on its app submitted by its users. In 2016 it published
‘An open letter to Connor’, publicly detailing a male user’s sexist and
abusive behaviour to a female user, alongside damning screenshots
of his messages. The blog post was an early example of Bumble as
a Feisty Underdog: a challenger unafraid to call out its enemies –
whether Neanderthal-like individuals or Goliath-sized competitors.
The new challenger was the third most downloaded dating app in
the US by 2017; Tinder (owned by Match Group) was the first. In an
attempt to minimise the allure of Bumble’s core product difference,
Tinder announced in 2018 plans to roll out a women-talk-first function
on its own platform. Bumble must be doing something right.
The big idea: Swipe left on the bullies.
After being issued with a lawsuit for patent infringement by Tinder’s
owners Match Group, Bumble responded by running a full-page ad
in the New York Times. “We swipe left on you. We swipe left on your
multiple attempts to buy us, copy us, and, now, to intimidate us,”
it stated. “We’re more than a feature where women make the first
move. Empowerment is in our DNA. You can’t copy that.”
Match Group owns Tinder, Match.com, Plenty of Fish and OKCupid.
Bumble, as an independently owned dating company, is effectively the
only obstacle standing in the way of Match Group having a complete
monopoly of the online dating industry – which makes Bumble very
much the underdog. So a full-page ad in a newspaper with a global
audience was a powerful way for the challenger to boldly call out that
inherent unfairness, positioning Bumble as the scrappy underdog up
against a bullying giant, and giving Bumble an opportunity to galvanise
sympathy and support by framing this as a part of exactly what it
was set up to fight. Bumble used the leader’s lawsuit as a strategic
opportunity to broadcast its championship of female empowerment,
respect and equality to a global audience.
But a print ad? Bumble is, after all, a mobile-based startup, with
an audience of mostly under 40s. Why spend around US$150,000
on something as old school as a traditional print ad in a newspaper
for a ‘digital audience’? Because in this case the medium was obviously
part of the message. This was, after all, the New York Times, whose
influence and cachet meant the underdog’s defiance was quickly
picked up and covered by other media around the globe, including
global platforms such as CNN, Mashable and Forbes.
And it’s a medium another challenger emulated shortly afterwards
in 2018, when challenger lingerie company ThirdLove riposted angrily
in a full-page ad in the New York Times to dismissive remarks by the
Chief Marketing Officer of Victoria’s Secret about the suitability of
plus-size and transgender women for lingerie shows. An iconic
newspaper makes the perfect platform for a conversation an
Source: Bumble.com underdog wants all the world to see.