Deep Dive: dating apps in 2021

Posted on August 13, 2021

Updated on August 13, 2021

4 min read time

dating apps, thursday, bumble, hinge

Last month, Google tweeted that searches for ‘dating’ on its site had reached a five-year high in the US.


It’s only natural that dating is experiencing a resurgence, as the world slowly begins to return to normalcy and people start to embrace their freedoms once again.


But if you want to understand more about this booming trend, we’ll be diving headfirst into the exciting world of online dating. Using ProQuo’s real-time analysis, which gathers the feelings and thoughts of 5,631 people every day, we'll decide which brands are making the most of this newfound popularity.


The state of the online dating category


We’ll be looking at the dating app category through ProQuo’s AI Brand Management platform and our 16 Drivers. The success of every brand stems from its relationships, and at ProQuo we’ve established that there are 16 Drivers which determine how consumers relate to brands. These vary from Value for Money (how much people feel your product or service justifies its cost) to Differentiation (how unique your offering is). The higher you score in these Drivers, the stronger your relationships with consumers will be.


Looking at the state of the category, it’s clear the online dating market is in a strong place. The 16 Driver profile reveals which four Drivers a brand or category is excelling in (the dark green) and which four they are underperforming in (the dark red). Clearly, the category is viewed by consumers as seductive, persuasive, emotional and rational. It’s unusual for any category to have a dark green in every section but the dating category has achieved this feat – showing how the category is fulfilling a range of needs across the board.


When you break these scores down and look at the Drivers individually, it becomes apparent the category appeals in lots of different ways. Specifically, it’s seen as attractive, plays a clear role in society, is easy to use, and is aligned with the cultural context it operates in.


dating app category, performing well over time 

The ProQuo Score is the average of the 16 Drivers and it highlights how a particular brand or category is performing on a holistic level. Looking at the overall ProQuo Scores of brands in the dating app category, it’s evident this market is on an upwards trajectory. It experienced expected dips in November and February, when lockdown rules were tightened, and dating wasn’t viewed as safe. But the score has picked up and it’s looking positive that a comeback is imminent.

 dating app category, performing well


Two stand-out Drivers in this category are Differentiation and Performance. Differentiation is how unique a brand is, and Performance is how well that brand delivers on its core promise. Both were at their lowest in February during lockdown, but they’ve skyrocketed since, seeing huge increases during this time, 13% for Differentiation and 12% for Performance. These scores are driven by key consumer needs in the market - as consumers are demanding that brands take action to stand out within a congested category, as well as calling out brands to practice what they preach. 


dating app category, growing over time


Let’s get a bit deeper


Just like house buying has surged - because the majority of people weren’t buying houses during the pandemic when there was so much uncertainty and fear around the future - dating apps have also come back into the picture. With lockdowns looming and the risk of infection at an all-time high, it’s unsurprising some users chose to refrain from the apps during a period of extreme instability. But now that vaccinations are underway and freedom is being granted to many countries, usage is spiking. Clearly, absence does make the heart grow fonder.


There’s also never before been a specific universal context that’s united the masses in the same way before. As the world returns to a semblance of normalcy, a collective context has been created for the first time. This is specifically prevalent in the UK where ‘Freedom Day’ has just been celebrated. This joint experience could be contributing to the emergence of a ‘joint mindset’, where those who may have sporadically dated over the next few months are now all suddenly at the same point, at the same time – finding themselves allowed out and wanting to meet people after so long.


High-performance dating app brands


Brands that champion Empathy are sure to drive success - as in a time of so much change and uncertainty it’s important to understand what consumers want and need on a deep level. A brand that’s tapped into this well is Thursday, the new dating app that’s highly empathetic. It limits usage to one day a week, surprisingly or not, on a Thursday. This is so users don’t get overwhelmed by admin and the time spent on the app is spared.


thursday, dating app, new marketing strategy


Another app that has dialled in on Empathy is Bumble, who understand that dating, especially after a long break like 2021, can feel intimidating and not always so safe. The app has rectified this problem by introducing a ban on their service on any type of body shaming. They stand against language that could be perceived as racist, ableist, homophobic or transphobic, creating a safe space for all users to enjoy.


Bumble has been praised for giving more control to women. On their service only women can message first. This female-first approach to dating has gone down well with their intended audience, as just this year their Empathy Score rose by 28%, after the app announced its decision to go public (a decision that resulted in their female founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, becoming a self-made billionaire).


bumble, dating app, marketing, high scores across women


bumble does well with women, scoring highly with females, dating app


And finally, dating app Hinge focuses on forging meaningful connections by asking users to fill out an extensive profile containing their likes, dislikes and hobbies to encourage engagement over quick swiping. These questions make it easier for users to find common ground. So, it’s no surprise the app has scored highly on Empathy this year. And in the last 6 months, its Empathy Score rose by 14%.


hinge dating app, brand performance, measuring marketing impact


What next?


There’s a huge opportunity in this category, driven by the increase in usage, for brands to partner with dating services. Never before have these apps been as needed – and brands in this space should consider potential partners to differentiate their offerings and add value to their consumers.


Suitable partners will be other brands with complementary strengths. So, in this case, focusing on brands that capitalize on Integrity and the darker reds on the 16 Driver profile is wise.


If you want to find out more about our other 16 Drivers to make the most of this opportunity, check out our guide on how to build a brand people fall in love with. 


CTA to link to a branding relationship guide


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