Brands Boosting Love in the Time of Coronavirus

By Sandy Drayton  | 

Even in the midst of Coronavirus, people are still searching for and finding love. Dates and weddings may admittedly look different during lockdown than they did  pre-Covid, but apps and brands are adapting to the new reality and finding ways to remain relevant by furthering romantic matches. Here’s how.

Video Dating
Online dating was a booming business prior to the start of the pandemic, attracting over 25 million smartphone users last year. And while quarantining could have spelled catastrophe for the industry, given enforced separation measures combined with the closure of bars, restaurants and coffee shops, the opposite is proving to be true. To combat loneliness during quarantine, many singles are turning to digital matchmakers. In response, popular apps are tweaking their business models by introducing novel video technology that’s ushering in a unique era for online dating. “During social isolation, everyone has had to adapt their dating strategies to use virtual solutions, such as video dating,” said Naomi Walkland, associate marketing director at Bumble, which boasts 90 million worldwide users. Though Bumble added video-chat functionality in 2019, the app credits that technology for the 21 percent increase in user engagement they’ve seen since mid-March.

Video is enabling other dating services to provide creative alternatives to in-person connections as well.  Match.com introduced Vibe Check in April that lets users chat face-to-face without disclosing personal information (which is required by video platforms like Skype and FaceTime). Plenty of Fish added a feature called NextDate that enables speed dating via 90-second video calls instead of in-person meetings. And Hinge added Date from Home, that lets users discreetly notify one another when they’re ready to engage in a video tête-à-tête. These new features have led to an increase in users for these platforms and soon Tinder will video ready too. The site recently announced plans to install its own video element in the second quarter of this year.

Virtual Weddings and Contests
The US wedding industry drummed up $72 billion dollars in 2018, with couples spending an average of $32,000 per event. While celebrations this year look a lot different, and over a quarter of engaged pairs have rescheduled their planned nuptials for 2021, brands are still finding ways to help couples tie the knot. In May, jewelry retailer Jared launched a television and social campaign called #LoveCantWait, that encourages couples to move forward with their vows—albeit in a safe and socially distanced way. Participants register via an online portal for their chance to win a free virtual wedding (up to 1,000 available), complete with customized themes and invitations. Hotels.com got into the action with a TV spot in March that featured spokesman Captain Obvious urging viewers to “just stay home.” Now the online booking company is back with a new campaign in which the recently ordained Chaplain Obvious performs online marriage ceremonies for lucky sweepstakes winners, who also score $5,000 to spend on a future honeymoon. Finally, Busch Beer attempted to soften postponement blues by promising a year’s supply of free suds to 250 winning couples whose betrothal plans were sidelined by the pandemic.

Marketers are continuing to find fresh way to stay top of mind for consumers seeking social connections. Dating apps report largely unaffected ad spend, thanks to surges in activity inspired by digital innovations. What’s more, by facilitating virtual nuptials, brands are helping to boost spirits during this challenging time—and both efforts have consumers feeling the love.

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