Lean Branding and Tinder: Congratulations you’ve been matched. But what now?

It’s a common concern for people like me to try to unpick and understand how and what it takes to make a client’s offering as appealing as possible to a prospect. We spend literally days kicking brand propositions, promises and values around until they ring true. We create back stories, tone of voice, personalities and of course make them as visually seductive as we can. But thinking changes and now there’s a suggestion that we’re over complicating things. ‘Lean branding’ is the new buzz – a process of developing a brand position on the fly based on feedback and success. Sounds great doesn’t it? Create a simple hypothesis, put it out there on the wondernet and see where it takes you. After all if it can work for Facebook, why wouldn’t you?

There’s a certain paradox that when we want to gather other learnings from the web, we don’t need to go any further than the businesses that are dedicated to creating matches and introductions. Dating sites such as Match.com have had such an enormous impact on society, it’s now reckoned that a fifth of all permanent relationships began online. Sites like this have made online dating an acceptable world for respectable people to enter into. And how did they gather momentum and build users? By promising to match profiles almost to the most exacting of requirements. eHarmony requires over 400 questions to be answered so that users can have the confidence that their matches will be as close to perfect as possible. That’s a lot of effort to make ‘brand me’ appeal to ‘brand you’.

Then along comes Tinder. A portable dating app that resides and operates in our most personal of spaces, the smart phone. It’s thought that users check their Tinder status over 8 times a day and it’s often the first and last thing they do during their day. But whilst this revolution, and with 15% growth week on week according to Tinder’s statistics, it’s most certainly a revolution that’s gathering pace. The real point here is how users engage with each other. A profile pic or three lifted from Facebook, an age, and a first name. No in-depth back story, no potted history, no unpicking through a dossier of data, just does he or she float your boat. That’s lean. Lean dating. And if the answer is no, a swipe to the left will rid you of them forever. A swipe to the right will leave you hanging to see if the feeling is mutual. If the match happens, then from that moment on, it’s up to you. The text dialogue begins. The merry dance of words, that promises anything from a casual exchange to love and happiness.

It’s a very natural thing that we should be drawn to someone or something that is simple, even superficial. Evolution has seen to that. There are some crazy examples out there. Take the male bird whose prowess is measured by the length of his tail feather. When experimenters pinned longer and longer tails onto it, the females just wanted them more. Even when the tail was so long that the bird could neither move, fly, or let alone mate, those girl birds couldn’t get enough. And the same is true for branding right? Lean branding will focus on honing the single minded proposition until the clients are completely sucked in but then what?

Well in the Tinder world, I can tell you. When the match is made, the games begin but it doesn’t matter how big your tail feather is, if you can’t back it up, you’re burnt. People have a reason to be on these sites and it’s rarely to find a new texting avatar. They want something real — flesh, blood and more. Hesitate, delay or procrastinate and the dialogue inexplicably stops. Sure, the process is simpler but the needs are the same. If you haven’t got the substance to back up the ‘hook’, then things can get a little short lived. So be warned — lean branding may be a means to an end but it’s not a reason to ignore the basics. Real relationships need substance, so be sure you know what it takes to get noticed but be even more sure, you know where you’re going to take things.