Bumble's Ad Fumble: A Lesson in Knowing Your Audience | K2L

Bumble’s Ad Fumble: A Lesson in Knowing Your Audience

Bumble, the dating app famous for letting women make the first move, recently decided to shake things up. With a new CEO at the helm and a rebranding effort in full swing, Bumble, the tech company, introduced a feature called “Opening Move” that allows men to send the first message. This new feature marks a significant shift from Bumble’s original ethos, where empowering women to take the initiative was the core principle of the app.

Sounds intriguing, right? Well, it wasn’t long before the new feature quickly hit a snag…

The Campaign Misfire

Bumble’s ad campaign began with high hopes but quickly turned sour. They rolled out a TV advert where a woman joins a convent to escape the dating scene, only to be lured back by a hunky gardener and the Bumble app. The tagline read, “We’ve changed so you don’t have to.” Alongside this were billboards proclaiming, “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer” and “Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun.”

The aim was to promote Bumble’s new features and rebrand, but instead, the campaign triggered a wave of backlash.

The Big Backlash

Instead of winning the hearts of the public, Bumble received a flood of criticism. Social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) were buzzing with outrage. Many felt the ads trivialised celibacy, a choice some women make to avoid the toxicity of modern dating. The campaign was seen as dismissive of the real and serious reasons why women might choose celibacy, especially in a world where dating can often feel unsafe.

Bumble, which has long positioned itself as a supposedly feminist app, faced significant criticism for this campaign. Many explained that celibacy is a valid choice for many, often taken to reclaim personal power and safety. By mocking this decision, the ads were perceived as reinforcing a patriarchal trope, suggesting that women should feel obliged to have sex. This was especially troubling given the backdrop of recent high-profile instances of violence against women by men linked to the incel (involuntarily celibate) movement.

Damage Control Mode

Realising their misstep, Bumble quickly pulled the ads and issued a public apology. To show they were serious about making amends, Bumble pledged donations to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organisations. They also offered the now-vacant billboard spaces to these groups, letting them spread messages that matter.


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Lessons Learned

Bumble’s misadventure is a classic case of not reading the room and putting ideas over insights. In the world of marketing, knowing your audience is key. The campaign may have seemed like a playful take on the status of modern dating within the confines of an office, but the outside world had much to say about the insensitivity and dismissive tone it carried.

Empathy and understanding go a long way in marketing. Bumble’s quick apology and concrete actions to rectify their mistake were steps in the right direction. While the ad campaign got everyone talking, it wasn’t necessarily for the right reasons, however Bumble’s response showed a renewed commitment to listening to their users and making things right.

In the end, this saga is a reminder that while taking risks in marketing can pay off, it’s crucial to stay in tune with your audience’s values and experiences. Bumble’s fumble may have been a stumble, but their efforts to correct it show they’re still in the game.