How Hinge grew 400% last year by being everything that Tinder is not.

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My brother’s friend’s friend recently broke up with his girlfriend.

After nursing a slightly strained heart for a couple of days, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps, re-downloaded Tinder and began swiping.

What was fascinating in the way that he was swiping was that he wasn’t actually looking. He swiped right on every single face that appeared on his screen.

I asked him why and he explained his methodology.

“I’m just speeding things up, you swipe right on everyone and then just hit up the baddest.”

For those less pop-cultured, “baddest” in this context doesn’t actually mean bad but instead hot, sexy, attractive, etc.

He then shared his secret weapon with me, a pick-up line that apparently works every time

“I’ll ask them if they’re a cigarette. They’ll be like huh? And, I’ll hit them with the punchline… I want to put your butt in my mouth.”

Are you a cigarette?

The above story effectively sums up online dating in 2020 — a cluster-fuck both literally and figuratively.

Lead by platforms like Tinder and Bumble, this new-age dating seems to heavily cater to men and women looking to… well… fuck.

But, for everyone else, folks who are interested in deeper more intimate relationships that last longer than a drunken one night stand, they’re shit out of luck.

That is until Hinge.

Hinge launched in 2013 and was founded by a hopeless romantic named Justin McLeod. He had lost the girl of his dreams, spent a great deal of time fighting to win her back and eventually decided to turn his heartbreak into a better dating app.

However, McLeod didn’t exactly know what “better” looked like until he read an article published by Vanity Fair in 2015 titled, Tinder and the dawn of the dating apocalypse.

The piece shared surprising (and at times slightly disturbing stories) similar to the one you just read. And, it ended up being something of an epiphany for McLeod who immediately sent out a survey to 500,000 Hinge users to ask them about their experiences using dating apps.

Here were some of his findings…

  • 81% of Hinge users never found a long-term relationship on any swiping app.
  • 7 in 10 women on the leading swiping app have received sexually explicit messages and images.
  • 21% of surveyed users on the leading swiping app have been ghosted after sleeping with a match.

After realizing just how shitty dating apps were, McLeod began redesigning Hinge and relaunched in 2016 as a subscription service.

By charging a monthly fee to use the app and doing away with swipes, Hinge was able to immediately filter out those strictly looking to hook-up.

The dating app designed to be deleted.

Hinge then pulled off a remarkable rebrand, dubbing themselves…

“The dating app designed to be deleted”.

With a product that truly was a “better” dating app and a brand that users could fall in love with, Hinge then threw themselves into their marketing.

Date one: Tampon Shopping.

They went long on influencer marketing partnering with huge Instagram accounts like Fuck Jerry and Betches who were heavily followed by their target user base.

On these accounts, they would share screenshots of social media posts and text messages of happy Hinge users feeling relieved with the refreshingly imperfect dates they were having.

One such post shares a grainy photograph of a confused looking guy at a Walgreens who had to take his Hinge Date to get tampons because she apparently started her period while on the date.

Their humor is odd, off-putting to some, quirky and most importantly… real.

Hinge has since run with this humor approach in a series of commercials and print ads that depict happy couples on dates where the Hinge Mascot can be spotted getting killed in the background… further riffing on this theme of “Designed to be deleted”.

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A bit morbid? Sure.

As both a marketer and copywriter, I’m constantly coaxing (and at times strong-arming) my clients into being different and saying something different than everyone else.

This is scary and even terrifying. I think for a lot of brands, they fear their customers leaving them in a mass exodus.

However, there is a lot of upside, too. Hinge saw 400% user growth last year by being (and marketing) unlike every other dating app in the world.

For folks who want to put their butt in someone’s mouth, there’s Tinder. But, for folks looking for something stranger than fiction… there’s Hinge.

And, if you were wondering, McLeod ended up marrying that girl.

By Cole Schafer.

Stranger than fiction by Honey Copy is a curation of stories about bat shit crazy marketing ideas that have made brands some serious cheddar. If this story made your mouth water, why not let me tell you when I write the next one?

Written by

I write pretty words and sometimes sell things.

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