Ashwini Gangal
Advertising

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

BBDO India's TV and outdoor ads for Bumble are beginning to get noticed. Can it rival Tinder, a similar product that got here years ago?

Few days back the posters on the big, three-billboard, blink-all-you-want-you-still-can't-miss it outdoor site at one of Mumbai's busiest junctions in Bandra, changed from Netflix's new show Selection Day to what look like screengrabs from a new television commercial for a mobile app called Bumble. This is one among many such billboards and bus shelters we've spotted. Actor Priyanka Chopra is the face of the American social networking brand in India. She is also an investor in the company.

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

Bumble TVC for India

The Texas-headquartered brand, founded by ex-Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd in 2014, has three platforms on a single app - Bumble Date, Bumble BFF, Bumble Bizz, that enable users to find love, make friends and network within a professional capacity, respectively. It's a bit like rolling the essence of Tinder, Facebook and LinkedIn into one app.

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble
"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble
"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

Bumble Posters
Click on the images to enlarge

There's anecdotal evidence that suggests Bumble has started entering the urban Indian lexicon. It's been called 'Ameeron ka Tinder' (because it was available for download only on iPhones before becoming accessible to Androiders, perhaps?) and, more favourably, 'that new feminist dating app' (because it famously requires women to make the first move, a feature pioneered by but no longer unique to Bumble; Tinder's 'My Move' affords women similar power).

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

2018 Billboard - New York - Bumble BFF
Click on the image to enlarge

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

2018 Billboard - New York - Bumble Bizz
Click on the image to enlarge

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

2018 Billboard - New York - Bumble Date
Click on the image to enlarge

Internationally too, Bumble is big on outdoor advertising; last year, in what was reportedly a multimillion dollar marketing effort, the brand placed 500 outdoor ads across New York. Titled 'Find Them On Bumble', the campaign got a lot of press, not least because the creatives were real Bumble profiles of 112 actual users (source: AdWeek). An older billboard we found on Bumble's Twitter page reads 'Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry. Then find someone you actually like'.

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

American tennis champion Serena Williams in Bumble's 'The Ball Is In Her Court' campaign

About three years back, when Tinder began advertising in India, the media vehicles used were mostly digital, led by associations with platforms/brands like TVF, Terribly Tiny Tales and Zomato, quite unlike Bumble's high decibel launch campaign that's leveraging TV and outdoor as well. Couple of weeks back though we noticed a few Tinder billboards - all part of the app's recently released 'Adulting Can Wait' campaign.

Tinder has been around in India a lot longer than Bumble; it has been available for download since 2013. Consequently, a large pool of Bumble's potential TG is already 'taken'. How does team Bumble plan to capture the market and tackle what may well be a second mover disadvantage?

Alex Williamson, chief brand officer, Bumble, answers, over email, "Bumble's focus is on creating a comfortable, safe and empowering environment for women in India to connect for work, friendship and dating. And because we're a social network and not a dating app, our offering and our brand provide something very different. Our positioning as a social network, and our ability to connect users across the most important relationships in their lives - whether for friendship, romance or business - is distinct from any other product in the market. We're confident that we'll capture our share of market in India, and our early numbers show this - especially from women." As of last month, the app reportedly has about 45 million users, across 140 countries.

Creative Fumble?

In some of its global ad films Bumble takes on themes like - women achieving their dreams despite the naysayers ('250 Million First Moves'), celebrating different definitions of love (#LoveEquals), and re-defining personal failure. The narrative in the brand's India film is different. It appears as though the over arching objective is to position Bumble as a progressive app for women who're otherwise judged for their choices.

Ambitious. Curious. Busy. Free. Equal. These are the adjectives Bumble would like India to use for women who lead at work, go on dates, and build professional connections - all scenarios we see in the ad film - instead of the word 'Loose', which, in the gendered Indian context of morality and character, is a derogatory term used to describe promiscuous women. But does anyone even use that word anymore?

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

Nisha Singhania

Nisha Singhania, co-founder and director of Infectious Advertising, says, "... The notion of working or ambitious women being promiscuous -I can't even bring myself to use the term 'loose'- is not just last season but decades old. I don't think anyone is thinking like that anymore... but it seems like the brand does and is being defensive..."

She says about the competitive scenario, "Sure, Tinder has the advantage of having come here first, but Bumble seems to be about more than just dating, so maybe if they can bring out their multi-faceted features it can attract a wider set of audience to download it..." adding about the product per se, "... not sure if people want a singular platform for all three (dating, work, friendship); in my opinion people would not want to mix business and pleasure. If that is the only way they're different from Tinder then I don't think there's a need for a product like this."

While the film is shot and directed well, the mini-plots and the messages they carry are a bit clichéd - don't judge her for the way she dresses, men can cook too, female boss leading a team of men.

"We're a social network, not a dating app": Bumble

Mahuya Chaturvedi

Marketing consultant Mahuya Chaturvedi (former COO, Leo Burnett Orchard), says, "To tap into the mindset of the progressive woman today, the conversation needs to be fresher... the triggers, newer. This ad is a story we've seen in multiple commercials; it misses that inspiration... The opportunity for the brand story is much bigger. The space is rich. While this is a start of the Bumble story, the 'Dil Chahta Hai' for women is waiting to happen."

She nevertheless reasons that in an era of #MeToo and untoward advances on social media, social networking apps are often an "unrewarding experience" for women. Therefore, Bumble's women-first, women-centric packaging and positioning is "novel, welcome, courageous and perfectly timed", giving it an edge over Tinder. Moreover, the BFF offering (internetese for best friends forever) furthers the idea of sisterhood, something that helps position the app as a safe place for women.

Besides, getting more women onto networking apps is the only way to grow the category, she points out. By marketing itself as a product that's designed to empower women, protect their privacy and understand their fears, Bumble is doing the category a service.