Swipe Right: What Can Tinder Teach Brands About Mobile Creative?

Online dating has redefined romance for the 21st century. One of the most popular entrants to the category is Tinder, a dating app based very much on “looks” and proximity. Tinder’s growth has been meteoric, amassing nearly 50 million users in just two years with no signs of slowing down. Despite negative attention and accusations that it relies too heavily on physical attraction, Tinder is on fire.  But what’s intriguing to me is the parallels between why Tinder is so seemingly successful and how brands might want to think about another kind of mobile -- advertising.

“Swipe Right” or “Swipe Left”

The Tinder app simplifies the online match-finding experience. After locating potential matches based on basic criteria, Tinder offers you a user’s photo, name, and age; your only options are to (1) swipe your finger to the right if you’re interested in starting a conversation, or (2) swipe to the left if you’re not attracted.



The concept is simple and is based around the concept of visual attractiveness.  It may seem crude to judge a potential partner within seconds of viewing his or her photo, but the reality is that our brains are constantly, subconsciously judging things around us each day based upon looks. It happens so often that we are unknowingly making decisions due to images we see, our surroundings, and people with whom we interact.

Love-Matching Secret Formulas

Tinder is certainly not the first digital service that has promised to connect two willing singles in the hopes of finding true love. For years Web sites like OKCupid, eHarmony, and have all touted foolproof ”love-matching” formulas that can connect two complete strangers for an unprecedented pairing that will result in everlasting love. And in some instances people have found love with these type of algorithm-based dating sites. But as Tinder shows us, a great image can spark a powerful first impression.

On Tinder people quickly decide who is “datable” based upon visual cues. These laws of attraction hold true in the digital world on an app like Tinder or in the real world where you might come across an attractive person in a bar. While this might seems shallow, it is realistic--research has proven it to be so. 

So WHAT is the connection between Tinder and mobile advertising?

In the world of media and ad tech vendors, this is a story we’ve heard all too many times -- “trust us, we have a proprietary algorithm that will help you find the ideal audience willing to buy your product.”  Here’s the truth: a secret “love-match” formula does not exist in mobile advertising. Yet like these dating Web sites, too many companies in media say they have developed black-box methods of targeting. They ask brands to trust their algorithms. But mobile advertising is really about context, which means reaching the intended audience with a memorable advertisement in a relevant moment.

What happens in the dating game is true for mobile advertising -- show someone a visually appealing ad creative and they can become immediately attracted to that brand. We have already learned that slim mobile banners might work for app install efforts, but these small ads rarely work well for brands. Brands need to take a cue from Tinder’s model. Think visually, emphasize creative, and lead with beautiful images to develop memorable experiences on mobile devices -- ones that will make consumers do a double-take and maybe even buy that brand a drink.

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