Beyond Swipes: BLK's Animated Saga Of Black Romance

BLK, the dating app for Black singles, is always searching for ways to make singles feel more welcome. The latest is a campaign designed to celebrate Black love, with an animated film detailing unique cultural practices from 900 BCE to the present. Jonathan Kirkland, head of brand and marketing for BLK, owned by dating giant Match, tells D2C Insider about the effort.

D2C Insider: This sweet and educational video, from Jolly Squid animation in Nigeria, kicked off during Black History Month. What are you hoping it accomplishes?

Jonathan Kirkland: We're about more than just dating and more than a right or left swipe. We’re building a community. And this video aims to empower people to start conversations. That's why we address many things that might not be considered dating content. For instance, we did a music video for the midterm elections called “No voting, no vucking.” We’re not in civic engagement or policy. But we can drive that conversation in creative ways without being preachy or authoritarian. That's not our lane.

D2C Insider: Earlier this year, you did another ambitious film with a brand video featuring Black women candidly outlining their struggles to stay authentic while dating. What’s the split between men and women on BLK?

Kirkland: About 58% male, 42% female, which is pretty much the case across the board for dating apps. About six months ago, we put an “intent” component front and center under your name so people can say if they are looking for long-term relationships, short-term or just friends. That intent is a big thing. You don’t want to spend time getting to know somebody who just wants to hook up. That just creates a bad user experience. We’ve found that our female users are more inclined to want long-term relationships.

D2C Insider: What about younger users?

Kirkland: With Gen Z in particular, many came of age during the pandemic. They tend to look at dating apps as just another social vehicle, like Facebook or Instagram. It’s a way for them to lean toward dating and connect with people on a friendship level, too.

D2C Insider: How old is your typical customer?

Kirkland: About 77% are between 18 and 34. The majority are Gen Z and young millennials. We're trying to find creative ways to reach them.

D2C Insider: Is the idea to make current users feel more engaged and connected? Or to attract new users?

Kirkland: This business is always about reaching new people and keeping those on the app more engaged. We have many different silos within marketing, including an offline team that does out-of-home, radio and connected TV.

The majority of our advertising is performance marketing -- those quick conversion ads that run on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

For brand marketing, besides the videos we’ve talked about, I’m big on out-of-the-box partnerships. Last year, for example, we erected a 60-foot Ferris wheel in downtown Austin called the BLK First Date Ferris Wheel. Right now, we're focusing on finding partners to elevate the brand in a way we haven't used before. We want to find deeper cultural relevance. We need to let users know we know your interests and speak your language.

D2C Insider: What kind of partnerships are next?

Kirkland: One I can talk about is the upcoming National Society of Black Engineers conference in Atlanta. This is one of the biggest collegiate organizations in the country, and it’s their 50th year. There will be thousands of college students there, and in many ways, it’s like a job or networking fair. I was there last year, and it was so interesting to see how nervous these young people were when talking to others. We’ll have a networking lounge to put them at ease with their peers. We’re also focused on spring break.

D2C Insider: How so?

Kirkland: We do stickers, as most apps do, but we think about it differently. We surveyed our users' top spring break destinations and created a sticker pack. The idea is to encourage them to match and connect with people going to that same destination, so they can make plans to meet up in person.

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