Tinder CEO Sean Rad on why innovative brands need an ‘aura of naivety’

The chief executive of social dating app Tinder believes innovation in brands comes from people “who are not experts in their field” and being naïve can help leaders be more creative.

Sean Rad

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe today (20 April), Rad said: “Not having the experience but having the drive and passion allows you to look at something from the outside and think of creative ways of solving problems.”

Referencing the ages of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Snapchat boss Evan Spiegel and their leadership experience, Rad said that sometimes having the experience can be limiting because it “sets you in your ways”.

He said: “It’s important to have an aura of naivety because when you are naive it means you are progressing – you don’t know what is coming. If you are complacent and are able to predict everything you are probably not doing something right.”

Rad added that as he gains experience, he also tries to “step back and be young, foolish and hungry” because that is “what allows you to understand your users and not lose touch with the problems they are having”.

Embracing all generations

The 29-year-old launched Tinder, which allows users to swipe right or left to respectively match or ignore potential ‘dates’, in 2012. It has had 11 billion matches so far from 100 million downloads globally.

The dating app is targeted at users aged 18-25 and in order to appeal to this millennial audience Rad aims to ensure the make-up of Tinder internally is young enough to relate to its users.

He agreed that it helps if brands aimed at millennials are run by millennials but advised the audience that it also “helps any brand when the leaders of that brand can empathise and understand their customers”.

Rad argued the point for diversity in age because as a brand Tinder has always been about “having diverse points of views at the table” and that often “in order to understand millennials you have to understand all generations”.

Why Tinder loves advertising

Generating revenue is a contentious area for social apps but Tinder believes it now has the right model in place to allow more brands to use the platform.

Tinder Plus is a subscription package that gives users the option to use premium services, such as ‘passport’ that allows users to change their location to countries they may be travelling to and ‘rewind’ profiles they may have accidentally swiped left.

Rad told delegates “Tinder is free and will always be free” but the brand “loves the subscription model” because people are willing to pay for value and a few people seeing that value pays for everyone else to have it for free.

Rad also “loves advertising” and Tinder is now starting to offer opportunities for brands as he believes the experience makes it ripe for advertisers.

“What is great about advertising on Tinder is users are on the platform to meet new people and explore new things. It’s a perfect place for a brand that has a story.”

Sean Rad, CEO, Tinder

The CEO admits that Tinder was “strict” starting out because it wanted the perfect ad product for users and brands, which took “a lot of learning and iterating” but Rad is now opening up the platform and “can invite more brands”.

He said: “We have such a high bar on user experience and we want to drive value for both parties.”

Pressure from the competition

The startup environment for social dating apps is rife with competitors such as Hppn and Bumble entering the market who are “incrementally improving on some of the principles that Tinder created”, according to Rad.

But he reckons Tinder is in an “amazing spot” with its global audience and therefore “it’s not about the competition”.

He said: “For us it’s about leveraging our massive audience and changing the game again. Not because we have to but because we want to.

“We have this vision about how we can revolutionise how people meet and we have only just scratched the surface, there is so much more we can do with a global audience.”

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