Badoo, founded by Andrey Andreev and one of the world’s most successful online dating companies, crossed the 400,000,000 user mark late last year. Aiming at the big half billion, the group brought in expert marketer Dominic Gallello in February and began work on a fresh brand identity ahead of the turn of the decade.
In this exclusive interview with Global Dating Insights, the CMO reveals just how the firm’s messaging and ethos is set to change.
Read the full conversation below:
You’ve been at Badoo for several months now. What’s your personal take on the online dating industry?
DG: “Coming from the world of other types of consumer technology, working with PayPal, GoFundMe and Airtime, all these companies talk about changing the world. That’s sort of the vernacular of Silicon Valley. Dating is a very different game; it may not be changing the world but it’s certainly changing individual lives.
Over the first few months I’ve spent at Badoo, a lot of what I focused on is just getting to know the community, really spending time with people who are on this platform, who are seeking a partner. Not just here in the UK but in Spain, Brazil and Russia, really getting the opportunity to know what these single people are like all around the world.
That experience has been really mind-blowing because I think – as much as there are enormous cultural differences in dating across the world and the different ways you encounter someone, build attraction and eventually hang out before anything serious materialises – a lot of the inherent desires that people have are pretty similar. A lot of the ways in which they mentally approach their own personal journey through that experience is relatively similar.
I think it just speaks to the very human business that we’re in. As much as culture has a significant role to play, there are also some very fundamental elements of the business that we’re involved in, which is basically just helping people to meet.
So it’s been an illuminating journey, just purely based on the fact that getting to encounter so many different people with so many different wants and needs has also revealed this commonality between everyone else.”
What do you make of the different brands under the Badoo umbrella?
DG: “I’m purely responsible for Badoo, which is obviously one of the biggest brands within the group. I have to say that I’ve been pretty surprised that this company has a portfolio of brands that are really mission-oriented.
Badoo is perhaps one of those that has not always been mission-oriented, and that’s what I’ve been tirelessly working at trying to develop. Speaking with the community, understanding the soul of this place and then ultimately expressing that out to the world.
The group structure and model is this amazing shared technology, talent and experience that the brands get to leverage to go solve these big societal problems. I’ve really been admiring a bunch of the other brands and the amazing work that they’ve done to just live beyond what they do, which is obviously helping people meet, but connect that with a sense of purpose and values that they believe the world needs. The same thing is basically what I’m trying to accomplish with Badoo.”
We’re here to talk about something new and exciting that you’re going to be launching in the next few months. What can you tell us about the future of Badoo?
DG: “My experience has always been about building purposeful brands for technology companies, and that always starts with people. In no business do you impact people more than here at Badoo. So, again, in these conversations that I’ve been having with the community, understanding who they are and what they’re really looking for, what I was amazed to find is that Badoo is, as a community of over 400 million people, really represented by all types.
When I looked at the dating landscape and category when I was first joining, what I saw was this false model of aspiration that is projected by a lot of dating companies. They say, ‘You have to look like an Olympic athlete or Vogue model’. The people who are on Badoo and the subsidiaries of Badoo are all types of people. It was really this moment of realisation – that what made Badoo special was a very democratic promise that every single person could be successful on this platform.
Now the way in which our top users behave was also really interesting to observe because these people, just like anyone else would, have coloured pasts, different backgrounds and are not the traditional models of aspiration. What united them all was that they were very open and honest about who they are and what they’re looking for.
So, we’re going to launch a rebrand for Badoo, beginning this week. We have a new tagline, ‘Date Honestly’, which is about helping people really overcome the self-doubt they might feel, to open themselves up to others, embrace the journey of meeting other people and figuring out what they want. I think it’s a new chapter for the brand to really embrace a set of values and connect those values, not just with our community, but also with culture at large.
It’s really the first step in a long journey that I’m hoping to take at Badoo, that allows us to really behave like the brand that we should be. We’re huge, we’re a massive company, we impact so many lives. Each week, 91,000 people delete our product because they met somebody on Badoo. They literally press the button ‘I met someone on Badoo’, and that is a remarkable thing. Yet, we have never talked about it as a company, what makes this place so special and so different from everywhere else.”
What kind of hard changes will the rebrand involve?
DG: “The product is working very, very well. We have a growing audience and community, so there are not necessarily fundamental changes that we are trying to make to the experience itself, but certainly the way in which we frame the experience through language and messaging. Those elements will change to help you understand the best way to jump into Badoo and the best way to be successful.
We have a new visual identity. We’ve had this traditional red heart for some time, that I think is somewhat of an old model of traditional love. As we thought about the best way to express what openness and honesty means, we’ve simply added a smile to the heart. We gave the heart a voice. It can say what it wants now. So we’re updating the visual identity in a way that feels familiar to some degree, where we still have purple as the primary colour, however, we are basically giving a nod to the fact that we have a clear sense of purpose now. We want to express that everywhere we can, basically.”
Will this be rolled out globally, and what sort of time-frame are we looking at?
DG: “This is rolling out globally – we’re investing in a number of our top markets. There is some marketing activity that we’re doing both above the line, as well as with our communities in each of those markets. A lot of this is about, again, awakening a lot of our own users to the fact that they belong to this incredible community of daters that are saying what they really want in life. So, a lot of community events – some of the above the line work actually features our very own users. We went out and actually interviewed our users, shot our users.
It’s really just an exciting opportunity for us to come out of the shadows, as a dating brand that has been this quiet giant, and say not only is Badoo an amazing place, but actually what makes it special are these insanely wonderful people who are on the platform.”
What are you hoping to achieve from this over the next two to three years?
DG: “I’m really hoping that Badoo can help impact the way we think about meeting new people in the world. This is more than just a perception or growth story. I was really inspired by the people that I was meeting from the Badoo community, and I hope that we can at least take their philosophy and act as a platform that can spread that to many, many others.
The world is locked away in what I call the ‘image economy’. It’s a place with a dehumanised internet where we’re meeting these facades of one another, and not really connecting on the very human level that you’re actually looking for.
As a brand like Badoo, it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to bring humanity back to the way in which we meet people over the internet. That’s at least the small impact that we can hopefully deliver to millions of people around the world.”
Can you talk a little bit about the localised messaging efforts that you have in each of your different markets?
DG: “It’s relatively unified across most of the markets. The way in which we lean into the local cultures is actually by our community members we’re representing in our advertising. Luckily they are their own representations of culture, so it helps us to be able to start from a very honest and authentic place for the brand. We don’t have to think here in London about how we represent someone because that person lives and breathes their own culture.
In terms of language, we ensure that the meaning of how we translate [key concepts] is retained. Dating does not really exist as a word in Portuguese or Spanish, so we’re trying to find the best way to express the very same idea but in a way that makes sense culture by culture.”
How do you see the dating sector evolving from where we are today?
DG: “I do think that the dating industry is still in its early beginnings to some degree, though it’s matured in the sense that it’s become culturally top-of-mind. The tools that the dating industry provides, and I mean any product that allows people to meet, those are remarkable tools that really change your life.
Meeting someone can really impact the trajectory of your life and I don’t think people have fully embraced the fact that all the things that they might ever want to do in their lives are at their fingertips with any type of product that helps you meet someone. It feels like the early days still, in terms of how culturally we think about dating products.
In terms of the technology that we use, it’s very hard for me to say on what is going to move the needle on that front. Things like video are obviously very, very interesting. The challenge with video is always how often do you feel ready to be on video versus the always-on nature of the current way we engage with these products. I think it’s still to be seen about how this happens, certainly more proactive recommendations from artificial intelligence could absolutely be part of it, but very hard to predict.
I think all you have to do is make some smart, strategic bets on the ones that you think are going to most positively empower people to change their lives.”
Thanks for your time Dominic! Outside of dating, what is one brand that you really admire as a marketer and draw inspiration from?
DG: “I love Airbnb. It’s kind of a similar platform if you think about it, because they’re a platform that has to engender trust between strangers who are going to have a very personal experience with one another.
They have this phrase ‘Belong Anywhere’, which has served as this core north star for them as a company to not only showcase the culture they uniquely offer and deliver, but has also helped them to nurture their community, which is perhaps their most valuable asset.
If there is anything as a marketer that I respect with Airbnb, it’s not just the fact that they’re mission-led and purpose-led, it’s the fact that they really understood how to use their community as their most valuable asset, as a way to equip them and as a way to grow. I think this is a learning that a lot of 20th century brands have missed and that Airbnb, as a slightly differentiated company, has helped to embrace.
Moreover, ‘Belong Anywhere’ just has a lot of flexibility and allows them to extend their businesses. Great brands don’t just sit around in their own little vertical niche forever. That’s why The We Company can also go out there and do everything from working to living to schools. It’s the same thing that Airbnb is doing with this very, very big and audacious mission of ‘Belong Anywhere’. They can go from homes to experiences to hotels now and everything else.”
Visit the Badoo website here.