Bumble Feels The Gen-Z Sting

The popular dating app Bumble has been having a tough 2024. After their stock prices fell to their lowest point in the last two years due to leadership changes and layoffs, Bumble announced that their app needed to change with the times and would be doing a relaunch.

This brand refresh included several bold tactics in their relaunch marketing strategy. Firstly they removed all posts from their social accounts, replacing them with cryptic memes leaning into the “exhausted” sentiment of women navigating the modern dating landscape.

The strategy was obviously an edgy choice and targeted right at Gen-Z, the current hot demo for all dating apps. Hype is always a powerful part of the 18-24 market but if you’re going to throw out the “big things coming” posts then something big better be coming. That’s where the stumble began.

Hype around the new updates fell flat when it was revealed that it removed Bumble’s most unique feature – having women message first. While there’s nothing wrong with updating a product to better fit your audience, it was received as a capitulation. Reducing Bumble to little more than another Tinder or Hinge clone. This clashed with the edgy tone of the marketing build up. Then it got worse.

An OOH campaign which only ran in the U.S. – featured slogans such as “you know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer,” and “thou shall not give up dating and become a nun.”

The backlash has been so widespread that while researching this article it was near impossible to find any mention of Bumble that isn’t related to this campaign. The reaction was so immediately negative that the campaign was scrapped, all of the billboards were removed and an apology was issued. 

“Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating and instead of bringing joy and humor, we unintentionally did the opposite,” the company said in a statement on their Instagram account.

What Went Wrong?

One could say that, on paper, Bumble had all the right ingredients for a memorable relaunch strategy. A defined audience, multichannel distribution, unique and edgy creative, fresh and updated product offering, etc. However it’s clear that Bumble is out-of-touch with Gen Z and the perpetual culture war around dating waging online. To be fair, it’s a dangerously hot mess for any brand attempting to insert itself into that conversation.

The final straw was the anti-celibacy messaging. Gen Z is well known to be far more critical and conservative when it comes to sex compared to millennials. This has only increased, including the 4b movement out of South Korea that has planted roots among U.S. zoomers. Without context, one would rightly assume that a celibacy movement would be a politically-conservative stance. Not in this case. Quite the opposite.

We are big fans of bold marketing choices. However this move put Bumble in the worst possible place - in the middle of a hot culture war, taking crossfire from both sides. Leaving no way out other than surrender which they quickly did.