Dating is a serious business. And that is certainly true for dating app Bumble, which today (20 March) hit back at claims it had infringed the intellectual property of rival Tinder by taking out two full-page adverts in the New York Times and Dallas Morning News.
The tone of the advert is feisty and direct, taking a swipe at the Match Group’s culture and tactics, while at the same time highlighting Bumble’s female first agenda.
It begins “We swipe left on your multiple attempts to buy us, copy us and now intimidate us”, adding “We – a women-founded and women-led company – aren’t scared of aggressive corporate culture”.
In a single stroke Bumble manages to communicate its ‘women first’ brand positioning, being an app programmed to ensure women make the first move, while at the same time calling out what it describes as the “scare tactics” used by the Match Group.
— Lucie Greene (@lucieluxury) March 20, 2018
The dating mega group, which includes Tinder, Match.com and OkCupid, alleges that two Bumble co-creators stole trade secrets relating to two features within the app that were “learned of and developed confidentially while at Tinder”.
Bumble tackles the allegations head-on with the advert, using the statement to “vigorously” dispute what it calls “the lawsuit’s baseless claims” and reiterating the team are looking forward to telling their story in court.
The dating company then turns the tables on the Match Group, describing its plans to “replicate” Bumble’s “core, women-first offering and plug it into Tinder”. This is a reference to the forthcoming roll-out of a feature on Tinder that allows women to make the first move, one of its key points of difference with Bumble.
The statement draws further on the turbulent history between the two US dating companies, in particular surrounding the Match Group’s active interest in acquiring Bumble.
In August, the dating app reportedly turned down $450m to join the Match Group stable. Furthermore Bumble CEO and founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, took her Tinder co-founders to court in 2014 for sexual harassment, before striking out on her own.
Since then Bumble has created a number of ‘women first’ platforms that sit alongside the dating app, including female friendship platform BFF launched in 2016, and the Bumble Bizz mentoring and networking platform unveiled in 2017.
This culture of supporting women is something the advert emphasises. Bumble claims that the behaviour being perpetrated by the Match Group only fuels its mission to build a brand that promotes kindness, respect and equality, adding “We’re more than a feature where women make the first move. Empowerment is in our DNA. You can’t copy that”.
The advert has made such a splash because it positions Bumble as the feisty, pro-women challenger brand, fighting against the oppression of the corporate machine. The use of print also feels fresh, as Bumble takes the initiative and shares its brand purpose directly with its target audience.
More broadly, print is having a renaissance when it comes to brands making a statement. Just last month KFC responded to the chicken shortage, which caused hundreds of its restaurants to temporarily close across the UK, with a run of adverts in the Metro and The Sun newspapers.
The ad showed an empty KFC bucket emblazoned with the initials “FCK” and the words “we’re sorry”. The fast food chain won over its critics by using print to tackle the issue head on and apologise to customers in a humorous way that was in keeping with the brand identity.
Meanwhile, singer songwriter Lorde took out a full-page advert in the New Zealand Herald when she wanted to make a statement about female representation at the Grammy’s in January.
Lorde’s hand-drawn ad thanked her supporters for “believing in female musicians”, despite that fact she was the only female singer on the Grammy’s album of the year shortlist and was not asked to perform solo at the ceremony, even though all the male nominees in her category were.
The renaissance of the print advert for protest, to set the agenda or address an issue upfront is a tactic many brands may well be taking note of in 2018.