How OkCupid transformed from an online quiz site to a hot, radically inclusive dating app
Once a personality-based matchmaking site, OkCupid funneled dollars into product development, user experience and a brazen new approach to marketing. For The Drum’s latest Deep Dive we look at how the platform carved out a niche for itself as the preeminent choice for daters who want to talk social and political issues..
Who says it’s taboo to talk politics and religion on a first date? BBW dating services OkCupid is proof that the old adage no longer holds true. The hot dating app has been on fire this year after overcoming a few unsexy growing pains.
Founded in 2004 by Chris Coyne, Christian Rudder, Sam Yagan and Max Krohn – the Harvard students who also created SparkNotes – OkCupid has its roots in what was once called SparkMatch. The platform allowed users to connect based on the results of a personality assessment similar to the popularized Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. After selling SparkMatch to Barnes & Noble, the team built what is now OkCupid. In 2011, they sold the business to InterActiveCorp (IAC), the holding company that owns Match Group. The group owns a number of popular dating and networking platforms including Tinder, Hinge and Match.
As smartphone adoption skyrocketed and online dating went mobile, OkCupid was among the first digital dating platforms to launch an effective, user-friendly mobile version. The platform retained its focus on getting users to ‘match on what matters’ – the platform’s functionality and philosophy were both rooted in the principle of encouraging singles to choose potential partners based on what’s most important to them.
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Despite the platform’s advances, the brand was tired and lacked freshness. Its narrative and image hadn’t evolved much since its founding. As a result, the platform was losing potential users to newcomers and sister brands like Tinder, which had come on the scene in 2012 and appealed to younger, hookup-focused users.
Recognizing it was time to get more aggressive, OkCupid appointed its first global chief . By the time Melissa Hobley, a former Walgreens executive, took the post, OkCupid had already amassed a massive user base. But it needed a new approach for cutting through the noise.
“Dating apps are a category a little bit like the nightlife scene – [people are looking for] what’s the coolest, newest, latest,” Hobley tells The Drum. “And when you’ve been around a long time and you have been out there telling the story of why this is a good place to meet great people, then people are left to their own devices to develop that perception. So OKCupid definitely had some perception issues, especially with younger daters. People didn’t know what was interesting about the product and about that experience.”
‘DTF’ messaging cuts to the chase
OkCupid had never launched a , when it unveiled the colorful, unapologetic, Wieden+Kennedy-led ‘DTF’ campaign that gave new meanings to the naughty acronym (for the uninitiated, DTF is internet shorthand for ‘down to fuck’).
The company brought on Ariel Charytan as its new chief executive officer in paign was rolling out across the US. Just over a year later, it appointed Marcus Lofthouse as its new chief product officer to help transform the product experience. Meanwhile, Hobley and her team went to work on reinventing the brand’s image. Through it all, the product and the brand both maintained the same central ethos of ‘matching on what matters.’