Four key takeaways from Tinder's strategy

How has Tinder disrupted online dating with such success?


You cannot talk about disrupting industries without discussing Tinder. After storming onto the online dating scene in September 2012, the app boasted 57 million users globally in 2017 and there are currently 1.6 billion daily swipes. Tinder’s success is down to a hugely skilful and enormously well-timed strategy that has caused it to be the trailblazers we now know.

"Tinder has been the biggest [disruption] in the online dating industry for over a decade," online dating expert Damona Hoffman stated. "It has created a lot of competition for traditional dating sites but at the same time it has generated a great deal of new business by normalizing online dating and bringing it into the mainstream. Tinder has also forced traditional dating platforms to step up their mobile game and make their apps more user-friendly."

So, if companies should be following Tinder’s lead, what are some of the key takeaways we can get from their highly successful, highly disruptive strategy?

Utilizing mobile

A mobile-only application from the very beginning, Tinder set out just as people were becoming more and more reliant on Internet of Things (IoT) operated mobile technology. As smartphones have become commonplace, mobile browsing has swiftly caught up with desktop browsing, and in 2017 for the first time it overtook desktop browsing as the most common method. According to Gartner, by 2020, the number of devices connected to the internet will more than triple, estimates suggesting there could be as many as 20.8 billion globally. Evidently, Tinder chose the right time to go mobile.

On top of their excellent timing, the use of mobile-powered technology allows for that level of convenience consumers, particularly younger consumers, demand today. If you want a business to succeed in 2018, you need to consider the implications of the rise of mobiles has created in the market.

Visit Innovation Enterprise's Chief Strategy Officer Summit in New York on December 6–7, 2018

Targeting millennials

Pre-Tinder, internet dating was entirely different, and had a negative reputation, especially from young people. When launched back in 1995, it was met with suspicion. The website pioneered the concept of online dating without ever truly normalizing it. The stigma around meeting a partner online was very apparent.

The prevailing idea that using online dating was socially abnormal, or even simply ‘uncool’, was largely to do with the inability for the likes of to capture a younger audience. had (and still has) a relatively old audience. Today, the site has more users over the age of 50 than it does under the age of 30, a weighting that had been even heavier before the industry was normalized among young people.

Its placement as a smartphone app helped it attract younger users. This also tackles the pervading issue of “coolness”, and it has been bold in its marketing and rapid brand expansion. It has been a roaring success, a recent study found that among millennials aged 18–22, 72% have used or are actively using Tinder. As such, “swipe left” and “swipe right” are terms now cemented in the vernacular of an entire generation.

Capitalizing on the freemium model

The fact Tinder is free, unlike the previous incumbent, has been hugely beneficial to its success. Although it initially launched as a fully free application, Tinder changed its operating model in 2015 to a freemium business model where it started charging for some features such as unlimited swipes and location change. The cost of Tinder Plus is variable (between $9.99 to $19.99 in the US) depending on the age of the user. The introduction of Tinder Plus divided the operating model into the money-making Tinder Plus and network-making Tinder Basic.

This initial success was followed in 2017 with the introduction of Tinder Gold, which allows even more access than Tinder Plus. Additionally, users can buy boosts, which make them the top profile in their area for 30 minutes, and additional Super Likes.

This freemium model is incredibly popular, with 3 million regular paying Tinder users worldwide. It is something new companies could do with considering and, according to a Clutch survey, 61% of app developers would recommend following this strategy too.

Marketing strategy

In 2015, Tinder began to use its platform for sponsored-content promotion. But, like the rest of their strategy, it played this incredibly well.

Traditional advertising is dead. Today, people are hyper-aware that they are being marketed to, so companies are well-placed to find a subtle way of speaking to their consumers. But if brands find a way to work themselves into the apps people use everyday, they experience real success. This is where branded profiles stepped in. In 2016, the app launched branded cards to help advertisers to reach its users. If a user swiped right on a branded card, a match would be formed and they would receive promotional information, special offers, and links to third-party webpages.

Watch Tinder's director of brand marketing, Kyle Miller, speaking at our Brand Strategy Innovation Summit last year.

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