Building a brand for your app — Bumble case study

Bumble is one of the most popular apps in the App Store and is quickly becoming the go-to dating, friendship, and networking app. Here’s a breakdown of how Bumble is winning the branding game.

The Founder

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The founder is perhaps one of the most — if not the most — important aspect of any business. And Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe, is by far the most passionate founder I’ve admired from afar.

For those who don’t know her backstory in the app startup world, Whitney had her “start” at Tinder but later left and sued the company for sexual harassment. Instead of letting that situation define her and wallowing in self-pity, six months later she moved forward with her next endeavor — Bumble, an app where women make the first move.

Value Proposition

“Women make the first move.” Simple and incredibly powerful. Men and women both know what they’re getting into when they download the app just by reading one sentence.

Bumble’s value proposition and vision to empower women is evident throughout all of the company’s messaging, marketing efforts, and content. It’s a breath of fresh air and perfect example of a company standing behind it’s core beliefs.

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“It is our hope and our wish, that as women join the app, they will find the confidence to go after what they want. If that’s making the first move on the app, or if that’s making the first move in business or friendship, go after the life you want.” — Whitney Wolfe

Actual Users

If you use both Tinder and Bumble in hopes of finding true love, you have probably noticed that there’s a significant difference in the ways people use each app. I strongly believe this can be attributed to the value propositions as well as the guidelines Bumble has put in place.

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On Tinder, people almost use their profiles as a means to portray themselves as a joke. Self-deprecating bios, memes, and sloppy photos flood the app — making it hard to take anyone seriously. Not to mention, all of the random-ness, self-promoting artists, and weed dealers you need to swipe through.

On Bumble, most users put their best foot forward. High-quality pictures, class, and meaningful conversation are all exhibited on the app.

Bumble photo guidelines:

  • No kids on their own. They must be in the photo with an adult, and fully clothed.
  • No photos in bikinis/swimwear indoors.
  • No pictures in underwear.
  • No Shirtless/underwear Mirror Selfies.
  • Face must be clearly visible in all photos.
  • No watermarks or text overlaid.
  • No pornographic material.
  • No graphic hunting photos.

Tinder also has it’s own community rules, but they only scratch the surface as far as photos go: no cat fishing, nudity, or graphic or display of gratuitous violence. You can read the entire list here.

A Beautiful Product

From the colors to the functionality — Bumble is a simplistic, beautiful app.

The goal was to make something that was really functional that felt like it made sense, but then also impose some limitations, some sort of organization, to where you could empower people. So when you think of something like imposing a rule within an app, basically, that women have to chat first, that could be a very clunky, sort of odd thing to approach. What we thought and talked about in the office was how can we integrate this in a way that feels really comfortable and natural to the women using the app, and we tell them, this is just what you do on Bumble, so that it’s normal for them. — Sarah Mick, Chief Creative Officer

Colors

Color scheme is an important part of designing for the end user. In layman’s terms, it basically taps into the brain and unlocks specific emotions.

Bumble is very different than most apps in that it’s primary color is yellow, not your standard blue (Facebook, Twitter, Skype), red (Tinder, OkCupid, Pintrest), or green (Spotify, Messages, Evernote).

Here’s a brief overview of the psychology behind the color yellow:

  • Optimistic and youthful
  • Values people and relationships
  • Signifies communication and enlightenment
  • Intellectual, imaginative, and idealistic

Fitting? I’d say so.

Onboarding

The majority of apps lose appx. 75% of users within the first week because the first experience/onboarding isn’t great — to say the least. But Bumble does a great job making a positive first impression.

Upon opening the app, users can seamlessly sign up through Facebook. (Kind of a pain if you don’t have a Facebook account, but that’s for another story.) Aside from a easy sign up process, keeping the app exclusive to Facebook also allows Bumble to combat bots, freaks, and other unwanted accounts.

The login/signup screen also features a video tutorial in the background so people have an idea of how to use the app.

“Home” screen

Just like Tinder, OkCupid, or coffeemeetsbagel, Bumble keeps the focus solely on the users. Because what else would you want to look at?

“Bumble wisely dedicates roughly 90% of the screen real estate to photos of your potential match, with the other 5% allocated to their name and a brief bio.” — Sean McGowan
😛

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As far as “liking” or “disliking” someone, Bumble follows the conventional dating app swiping functionality — left to dislike, and right to like.

The first time the user dislikes someone, a little pop-up appears to confirm that person is indeed unattractive.

The first time the user swipes right to like, a pop-up appears to confirm that the user wants to get it on.

And if you match with someone, a cool little screen appears that shows the two of you are connected. An instant mood boost, validation, and heart-stopper all in one!

Aside from the standard swiping, there’s also a SuperSwipe feature you can use if you’re “super” interested. It’s basically the same thing as Tinder’s Super Like except users don’t have to worry about accidentally SuperSwiping all of the time.

Bumble made it so that SuperSwiping is very intentional. The user has to go out of their way to actually tap the icon — not just swipe. On Tinder, if you swipe up thinking you’re about to view more of the person’s photos — you’re not. You would have just Super Liked someone and you have to sit and contemplate your actions. Maybe if you match — it’s fate? Do you apologize? Will they notice? Are you supposed to feel bad if they message you? Who knows?

Overall

Again, I personally think Bumble is a clean, well-designed product and I have no complaints whatsoever. (Except maybe the re-designed flashing Hive icon which doesn’t really do anything for me, but that’s beside the point.)

Social Media

Aside from just nailing it’s product, Bumble also kills the social media marketing game. Bumble understand exactly who it’s users are and markets with them — not at them. What really makes the company’s strategy is that the social team creates compelling content native to each platform.

Instagram

Theoretically speaking, if someone smashed Bumble with a bat and the app crumbled into tiny visuals — it would look exactly like it’s Instagram feed.

 
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Splashes of pleasant yellow, pastel colors, and witty (not copied from Tumblr) statements make up the feed and it’s perfect. Not because it’s minimalist or “Millennial,” but because it’s what Bumble users actually want to see when they scroll through their feed.

Twitter

Twitter’s user base is declining and the platform is struggling to hold attention, but Bumble still manages to utilize the platform just as well as Instagram.

 

The account is mainly used for customer service and updating followers about the latest Bumble news, but a nuance that typically gets overlooked is brand voice and tone. And it’s very powerful.

 
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I’ve had multiple exchanges with the Bumble Twitter account, and it’s pleasant every time. If the account was a person, it would be your 26 yr. old sister who graduated with a degree in Communications and likes to eat donuts to “carb-load” before her half-marathons.

Real, strong, and understanding.

Facebook

The ratio of Bumble’s Facebook fans to Instagram followers is pretty significant, but which Millennial seriously uses Facebook now? [joke]

In all seriousness, organic Facebook reach is declining and Bumble users probably aren’t going out of their way to like the page, however, the company makes Facebook a great one-stop hub for all things Bumble.

One can check out the standard BTS look at the company, learn more about the latest news, and get tickets to upcoming events. And on the same page, you can even visit the company’s Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest — basically eliminating the need for Google search.

 
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Another interesting aspect of the company’s page is it’s Shop — the Bee.tique. It’s basically the Hallmark Cards and Gift for Bumble. You can purchase anything from branded shirts, matchboxes, necklaces, yoga towels, carry-on cocktail kits, and my personal favorite, sweaters.

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The products are on the pricey side of “app merch” but are a must-have for any Bumble enthusiast or employee.

Brand Ambassadors

Every good marketer knows that brand ambassadors are a great way to get apps unto the phones of college students — if done correctly. And surprise, Bumble is doing it right.

The Bumble team utilizes it’s Lookbook.nu worthy apparel to win over the hearts of business-focused, trendy college girls everywhere. “Make the first move” is Bumble’s cake but the free swag is the icing on the cake.

I literally don’t even know who that is but what I do know is that I need to listen to her and get my profesh on.

Positive Churn

Founder Whitney Wolfe embraces the concept of “positive churn.” Meaning, the most powerful form of marketing is word of mouth. If you match with the love of your life on Bumble, you’ll delete the app (hopefully), resulting in churn. But although you deleted the app, Bumble might acquire five new users — the five friends you just told about the positive experience you had using the app.

Marketing and branding is a mindet — not a compiliation of tactics.

Conclusion

I’ve downloaded a ton of apps, worked with hundreds of startup founders, and studied almost every app marketing/branding strategy in the book — but I’ve never seen any company come close to the level Bumble is on.

I truly believe every startup founder should look at Bumble as the prime example of an app done right.

(Random)

I somehow managed to connect with Whitney through Bumble Bizz hours after starting on this piece, and found it extremely weird.

So Whitney, if you’re reading this — Hello! Hopefully I did your baby justice.

(And I swear, I’m not that obsessed.)

 
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