November 15, 2022
By: Michael Sun
It’s 8 pm on a Thursday night. I’m sitting on my bed eating hot chips and absent-mindedly browsing Twitter. I’m procrastinating just about everything, including my school work and the blog I need to make for Marketing Society. That’s probably a bad thing, I think before I put another chip into my mouth and continue scrolling. But before I can fully go back to lazing around, my phone rings with a notification.
Annette (my Boss, paraphrased): “You know you’re only on the Content Team for a semester, right? You’ll have to apply again if you still want to be on it in Spring.”
Oh. I stare at the screen, chip in hand. The application committee probably wouldn’t be too impressed with my work ethic, would they? But my brain is so empty and I can’t think of any interesting ideas to write about and I’m going to get no return offer and— you know what? I’ll just ask my girlfriend for advice. Great idea, I tell myself, as I open up Discord and shoot her a quick message.
L*** (annoyed, paraphrased): “We’ve been broken up for two years now. Get over it.”
I smile; she’s inspirational as always. I can just write a self-deprecating paper about how I have no love life and then spin it to relate vaguely to marketing! So anyways, here’s the prompt:
Can I apply marketing principles to figure out why I can’t seem to get a single match on Tinder?
The Marketing Mix
Also known as the 4Ps of Marketing, the Marketing Mix is a list of considerations companies use as a foundation for their operations in the marketing field. The 4Ps are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For my purposes, I’ll center my discussion around my use of these 4Ps and explain why I fail to meet proper benchmarks for each section.
But before we begin with that we need to make a few assumptions about the Tinder user base, which I will define as the “customer” in this transaction. I want to frame Tinder as an online shopping platform, where users put themselves on sale for prospective customers (i.e. as a match). Tinder, in a sense, is a microcosm of the greater marketplace in that groups of people are vying for the attention of a select group of individuals. And in so far as that’s true, we can say that the market offerings are the people who put themselves on Tinder for prospective matches (the Product).
I argue that prospectives on Tinder should generally be considered shopping products. A relationship is a relatively long-term investment, and customers exhibit the same extensive planning and product comparison behaviors as they would when they go out to buy televisions and furniture. For those who want to be matched with others, this means that we have to perform selective advertising toward the consumer in an effort to be selected for purchase.
I can also understand an argument where sometimes people can be moved up to be a specialty product. In this case, customers would exhibit strong brand preference and loyalty, and do very little critical thinking before engaging in purchasing behavior. I’ll refrain from discussing this in this blog because I think the analogous Tinder interaction would be someone who only chooses people with a particular trait, which is a rather unhealthy relationship outlook.
Here’s the deal:
Customers are looking for the best option
They will choose the best option after comparing lots of options
It is up to the producer/retailer (in this case, me) to prove to the customer that is worth buying
Okay, let’s get into the actual analysis.
Pretty self-explanatory: what am I selling? In this case, it would be me. The first thing most people notice on every profile is the person’s looks. But here’s my problem: in my pictures, I’m standing next to my old roommate, who is a literal fashion model and Greek God all in one. It’s not like I was the most attractive person to start with, but I might as well be a sasquatch compared to the guy standing to my left. And then after the customer has finished comparing my inferior looks to my roommate, they move on to my bio, which simply reads: “haha, pigeon pigon [sic].” It’s a complete joke of a profile that I initially thought would differentiate me from others by focusing on humor but ultimately backfires because it makes me look categorically inferior to every other person on this platform.
Tinder’s a dating app, and it costs nothing to put yourself on it. It also doesn’t cost you money to swipe either left or right on anyone you choose, so there’s no explicit price on matching with anyone or going on dates. But in marketing price refers to the sum of everything a customer may give up in order to access the product or service. For example, if I love eating peanut butter, but the person I was dating was deathly allergic to nuts, I may have to give up my consumption of any nut products. The price here would be the fact that I must concede one of my favorite foods to date, someone.
And again, my Tinder profile is basically a joke. People looking at my profile are going to hesitate before engaging; is it worth their time to talk to me? The chance of me being a halfway decent conversationalist is pretty low, and I’m not that attractive either, so they’re paying in their hard-earned time just for some idiot to maybe respond coherently and string together a conversation. It’s simply not worth it when they could go to someone else who at least puts their hobbies or tastes in their profile.
Where is the product distributed? Where is its range? Well for me, I’m pretty accessible. I live in NYC for college, which is pretty much a hub of activity. There’s a metro line to take me pretty much anywhere I want for cheap, and everywhere significant is on Google Maps. But here’s the deal: everyone else is also just as accessible. I’m not special because NYC is so large and there are so many people to choose from.
So how do I advertise myself? This is quite hard in itself when I’ve already told you how I’m either inferior or average in every aspect of my profile. There’s nothing to differentiate me from the rest of the people on Tinder. I don’t specifically target any group, and I have no rhyme or reason behind my choices. I see some people on Tinder will start off in their bio, saying things like “come make dinner with me” or “we can cuddle on the couch together.” They’re not just conversation starters, they also help create a relationship with the customer and offer something up front for engagement.
My conclusion, therefore, is that I am a failure in dating applications (and real life, but that’s a different story). It’s really hard to take someone like me seriously when I don’t bother to make a legitimate profile in the first place. When customers are coming in and they see multiple options, my profile just appears inferior by all metrics. When people are making nuanced decisions, who has time for someone who is just worse?
In environmental science, we learn about the best first principle, which basically states that people naturally use the highest quality resources first. For marketers like us, it is the same. The marketplace is a constant tug-of-war between brands and companies to appear to be the best in some way or another. It’s differentiation. It’s how they set themselves apart from the rest and convince people to engage with them and shill out for their products. As an extension of that marketplace, Tinder is the very same song and the battle between varying parties of varying allegiances. All’s fair in love and war, but as philosopher Aka Akasaka says, perhaps love is war.
Michael Sun is a Sophomore at Stern, studying Marketing/Finance and minoring in Environmental Studies. He likes writing niche analytical essays to procrastinate school work. Stay tuned for more exciting blogs from the Content Committee!