In Tinder's recently released digital ad film, an Indian mother approves as her young daughter picks out accessories before stepping out to meet someone she found through the mobile app.
When we interviewed Taru Kapoor, head, operations, Tinder India, earlier this year, we asked her whether 'Indianising' Tinder meant positioning it as a near-matrimony app.
She said, "Not really, Tinder is a social discovery platform, an introduction platform. A match on Tinder can lead to multiple things - friendships, acquaintances, professional connections, romantic relationships and sometimes marriage. Tinder is what you make of it."
Talking about the importance of having open conversations and debates to address "existing stereotypes" around dating and relationships, Tinder's Kapoor says, "Our intention is to start a conversation about the future of dating in India... we're seeing a cultural shift towards openness when discussing (these topics)..."
Indian ad-land swipes left...
We asked a few advertising professionals.
"The brand clearly wants to increase its acceptance. Much to the dismay of young adults, Tinder probably wants to be seen and heard by parents. Come to think of it, it's actually noble on their part, taking away the need for couples to rehearse a carefully fool-proofed lie about where they met," she says.
She adds, "I think they've done an 'okay' job Indianising it; note how the mother asks her daughter to wear some kaajal. But certain elements, like coming back home by evening or wearing a kurta for a date, suggest that Tinder is taming its communication to appeal to perceived Indian values."
Tinder, feels Haldipur, seems to be trying to take away the stigma that non-traditional avenues of meeting new people in our country often come with.
Carlton D'Silva, chief executive officer and chief creative officer, Hungama Digital Services, a WPP-owned company, says about the ad, "It is trying too hard to be Indian and in the process, is changing the way Tinder is perceived. It increases the age limit of the TG."
He adds, "I don't believe making it 'sanskaari' is the right way to go about advertising the brand; the TG that uses the app runs in the opposite direction! Clearly, the people from Tinder's HQ (Los Angeles) do not know the pulse of their TG here in India at all."
Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, senior creative director, JWT, says, "Tinder has a certain look and feel, it speaks a certain language, it has chutzpah. This ad does not."
He, however, understands what the brand is trying to do. "As far as strategy goes, I can't fault them. By and large, Tinder is known to be a 'boom boom' app..." he says, referencing the way youngsters use it to 'hook up' in the short term. But he knows of five people who have met on Tinder and are now getting married.
"I think the marketing objective here is to familarise the family with Tinder... It looks like the target audience for this ad is the parents, not so much the youngsters," decodes Dasgupta, reiterating, "They got the objective right. The execution, however, looks pale."
Indianising a brand is not necessarily about making it 'sanskaari', he insists, citing the communication efforts of global brands like Google in our market. From the looks of it, Tinder, he feels, is simply treading carefully, given the reputation it has in India.
Pratik Gupta, co-founder, FoxyMoron, a digital agency, says, "Tinder is trying to reach urban people in the digital space, those who're a lot more evolved than the larger 'TV audience'. They're showing us that today, women are modern enough to go out and find themselves a date - (or presumably, a potential marriage proposal) - and their mothers are forward enough to accept that their daughters are part of a modern eco-system. It is a good portrayal of what Indian households are and should be," he says.
Understanding Tinder's need to localise, he reminds us that McDonald's came up with the Mc Aloo Tikki and that KFC created a vegetarian menu for India. "If Tinder has to survive in our market, it has to localise," he says, matter-of-factly, adding, "I think Tinder is doing a great job by enabling these conversations."
Should matrimony-led websites and apps worry? "No," opines Gupta, "Tinder's not saying you have to get married. The girl in the ad is not even explicitly saying she is going out on a date. They have maintained that in the ad."
Malvika Mehra, founder and chief creative officer of a soon-to-be-launched design and communication outfit, says, "My first reaction to the ad is: Wolf in sheep's clothing. It's Tinder trying to be Shaadi.com. If you are a wolf, stick to being a wolf, unabashedly, or change the forest."
The ad, she feels, is an attempt to "moralise" the brand, an effort, perhaps, to shed the "baggage" it brings with it. "Let's face it - abroad, Tinder carries the reputation of being a pure dating/hook up app," she says, adding about this ad, "Given the changing moralities and life choices of the young independent Indian, I think it is naive to think these kids are actually waiting for 'Maa ka aashirwad' before swiping right or left."
While Mehra understands the brand's need to shed its 'just for sex' tag, she feels there could have been a better way of doing so. "Putting 'mummy' in there has really taken the brand to the other extreme... Tinder has managed to confuse the hell out of the young dating community," she analyses.
(With inputs from Suraj Ramnath)