Aishwarya Ramesh

Dating apps use niches to reposition romance

The dating apps space in India is somewhat new, yet quite clearly segmented...

Indian cinema - especially Bollywood - is notorious for celebrating romance. We have many expressions of falling in love, but for some reason, as a society, India wasn't fully open to the concept of dating and relationships until a few years ago. In 2014, dating app TrulyMadly made its debut in the Indian market. This was around the same time that other players such as Tinder, Happn, Woo etc. started making their presence felt in India. Earlier this year, a Google report titled "Insights for Brands" pointed out that dating searches are catching up with matrimony queries and that Google India saw dating-related searches grow three-fold from January-December 2018.

Recently, a new campaign in this space caught our eye - OkCupid launched its #LoveAtFirstPride campaign for the occasion of 'Pride Month 2019'. The campaign was meant to be a celebration of identities, but we couldn't help notice that in India, each of the brands in the dating space has taken a specific stance relating to an audience segment. Bumble stands for the interests of working women, TrulyMadly is about finding a serious life partner and Woo prides itself on a safety feature allowing women to call other users without revealing their phone number. It made us wonder - isn't the audience for dating apps already a niche one? How does it help a brand's cause to slice that niche further?

 Dating apps use niches to reposition romance

#LoveAtFirstPride campaign

The campaign was meant to be a celebration of identities, but we couldn’t help but notice that in India, each of the brands in the dating space has taken a specific stance relating to an audience segment.

 Dating apps use niches to reposition romance

Snehil Khanor

We spoke to Snehil Khanor, CEO and Co-Founder of homegrown dating app TrulyMadly. He informed us that TrulyMadly's brand positioning was 'Find Your Forever' and their target audience was 26+ years old. We asked him about the market for dating apps in India and he told us that India has 420 million people who are between the ages of 18 and 25 and every month, one million turn 18. Of those, 31 per cent live in urban areas. Khanor believes that brand positioning is important, pointing out that positioning also depends on the user's age.

He further explained that dating is categorised into serious dating and casual dating. "In the serious dating category, you have to target people who are 26 and above. In the casual dating category, you have to target people who are 18-25 years old," he said, dropping a reference to Tinder's 'Adulting Can Wait' campaign.

"Seventy per cent of our active user base is 26+ years old and 50 per cent is 28+. Our brand positioning communicates that you can come to the platform if you have serious intentions and a user can end up meeting like-minded members who have similar intentions," Khanor says.

He also points out that dating has been a taboo while love marriages have been happening for ages.

Khanor also tells us that the brand's positioning sets him apart from others stating that users want to use dating apps, but don't want to go to traditional matrimony sites where the filters that they place on each other are based on caste, creed, religion etc.

We spoke to Harish Bijoor, brand guru and founder at Harish Bijoor Consults to understand the space better.

 Dating apps use niches to reposition romance

Harish Bijoor

"A dating app is a product - and products are commodities. They need to distinguish themselves to stand out and appeal to relevant sets of consumers. Therefore, positioning is a tool to use to their advantage. Tinder could be the mother app - all those that follow carve out niches for themselves. Grindr is about men, Bumble is about working women and the list will go on endlessly in terms of segmentation of the market to dominate," he points out. He also added that these apps were 'liberal apps' and that they had a tendency to attract liberal users.

Bijoor tells us that positioning is all about focus and that there are two types of brand positioning - "One is narrow-spectrum positioning that really fine-tunes its audience and the other is broad-spectrum positioning that actually covers a range. Between the two, narrow-spectrum positioning is a great thing to attempt. That way, you can really focus on your core customers and weed out the wannabes. Imagine an app that appeals to the LGBTQ community. It's still a broad-spectrum positioning. If only it were to focus deeper into each one of the elements of L, G, B, T or Q, it would do well. Remember, these apps build communities and build the aspirations of seekers - seekers of dates. More focussed and fine-tuned the better," he explains.

 Dating apps use niches to reposition romance

Himanka Das

Himanka Das, CEO, Vizeum India, agrees that audience segmentation is key for any brand in any category. "The next step is to position the brand communication at a relevant platform. Having said working women make a workable segment for a brand, but I have not been able to place any brand that will target LGBTQ as an audience segment," he admits.

When discussing if a brand's niche positioning might alienate the rest of the members of the audience (apart from the target audience), he agreed. However, he reminded us of how young the sector is in India, saying, "We are still under social media experimentation on such a nature of the audience."

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