I recently participated in a focus group that was centered around how dating apps – match, eHarmony, Tinder, that sort of thing – could evolve; how more features or fewer, additional controls or less stringent, search options, endorsements, buttons, clicks, options and tassels might help sort through the proverbial haystack to find the needle. Deciding I did not need a needle that desperately (and wondering when the last time I saw a haystack was, or why it wasn't tied tight with twine like any decent farmer would do, that it would force one on hands and knees to fanatically search for some irreplaceable needle), a gentleman on the panel made a fascinating inquiry – far more interesting than any profile I had seen in a moon's time. He asked if perhaps we were articulating that we might prefer to take dating offline.
Take dating offline.
Wasn't a date by nature offline (I can't remember)? When did dating become primarily online? Probably around the time Experiential Marketing (and the need to shorten it to XM for quick texting) was born.
It's true, though - listen up you busy professional singles out there (and you lazies and anti-socials also) – you can now have an entire relationship online. You can spend days sorting the haystack into digestible piles, one swipe at a time, spending half your day messaging complete strangers you're not even entirely sure are attractive. You can learn everything there is to know about them – what they do with their days, their interests, histories, spending habits, inexplicable aversions to punctuation, family dramas, any number of proclivities (scandalous or otherwise), desired vacation spots…but one bad message and you're deleted, avoided on every other app, always swiped left, hidden, ignored, or blocked – and this is where 99% of 'matches' end. But a great (half-decent, really) rally at the right time by a clever conversationalist (attentive typer), and you've got yourself an in-person meet.
Substitute tall-dark-and-handsome-entrepreneurial 'match' with Brand Y. Y knows where you've been and can make some pretty bang-on assumptions based on that – it knows what you buy, where and when you buy it (and where and when you don't, but have shown interest), even why and how often you buy it. Y knows you so well it can tailor its communications and offers right back to you when you're most likely to respond, and have that package on your doorstep by 5. It's almost creepy how well it knows you, anticipating your needs and desires at precisely the right moments – all those search engines, product pages, emails, special offers – all written just for you. Y must really like you.
Now, anyone can set up a date – that's the beauty of online. Say the right thing at the right time on the right medium, with the right backup photo, and it's a simple wink away. But, it's the follow-through that can trip you up. You see, you've presented a certain self…all photos are from the right side, hiding the crooked parts. You've said just enough to intrigue, but not too much to terrify. You haven't mentioned your mother, or that you have two cats. You've messaged to impress – witty and vulnerable, fun and feisty. But are you that person in the flesh? Do you back up your online promises with reality? Do you exceed expectations, or are you a drive-by? Facilitating truth in a world of false eyelashes, photo touching, self-declared profiles and time-free wit can be a tricky business.
And let's be honest. Some brands might be content with being just a one-night stand. Maybe all Y wants is a wham-bam transaction – and that's okay too, as long as it’s honest from the start. But if you are a brand who wants a second date from your customers, you in turn need to be more – to offer more – than online promises and cheeky texts.
True Experiential Marketing is more than just a one-night stand. It should combine the physical – the human – with the digital in order to come through on its online and retail promises. XM should prove in the flesh that you are exactly as profiled and more. XM can surprise and delight, comfort and nurture, excite and launch, help and drive...but in every case, it should start something bigger than the search from whence it came.
Just about anyone can set up a date. If that date isn't you but rather some online identity you've created that has no substance, authenticity, sincerity or follow-through, you will be dismissed, replaced, and forgotten (not to mention that you will have wasted a Friday night). But, if you create something true and memorable when you meet, that can change lives.
Look for A Single Girl's Guide to XM, PT II: Love is Not Enough, coming soon!