Points North

How to Avoid a Bumble Fumble

on Jul 05, 2024 in Inspiration

Last month at Points North, we imagined we were hired by the popular dating app Bumble, and put together an ad campaign for them that wouldn’t have caused a #bumblefumble with their audience and the media.

But then we started thinking (we do that a lot!) – how can a company avoid the “fumble” in the first place? A fumble, by definition, is the clumsy handling of something. In this scenario, the something we’re referencing is marketing campaigns.

Marketing campaigns don’t happen in the span of an afternoon. Creating one involves several key steps:

  • Defining clear objectives and KPIs.
  • Understanding your target audience/buyer personas to be able to develop a compelling message and creative concept.
  • Creatine engaging ad content that includes visuals and copy.
  • Implementing and launching the campaign. Continuously monitoring performance, making data-driven adjustments.
  • Using insights to refine future campaigns.

Bumble is no small business, so I’m sure their marketing team is well-versed in creating campaigns. How did they end up missing the target? My first suspicion –  there weren’t enough diverse voices in the rooms where decisions were being made and content was being approved.

Diversity in the Right Rooms

Incorporating diverse voices in the room when making important decisions for marketing campaigns is crucial for several reasons.

  • Broader perspectives – Diverse teams bring a variety of experiences and viewpoints, helping to anticipate and understand how different demographics might perceive the campaign. This can prevent the creation of content that may be unintentionally offensive or insensitive.
  • Cultural sensitivity – A diverse group is more likely to identify cultural nuances and avoid stereotypes or generalizations that can alienate or offend certain groups. This is particularly important in a globalized market where cultural missteps can have significant backlash.
  • Inclusivity – Campaigns designed by diverse teams are more likely to resonate with a wider audience, as they reflect the diversity of the real world. This inclusivity can enhance brand loyalty and broaden the campaign’s appeal.
  • Innovation and creativity – Diverse teams foster a more creative environment where different ideas and approaches are valued. This can lead to more innovative and effective marketing strategies that stand out in the market.
  • Brand reputation – Ensuring diverse voices are part of the decision-making process helps protect the brand from reputational damage. As seen with Bumble’s recent ad campaign, which was found offensive by some, having diverse input could have identified potential issues before the campaign launched, avoiding negative publicity and backlash.

Why Representation Matters

Bringing diverse voices to the table involves intentional actions and strategies to ensure a wide range of perspectives are represented in the decision-making process. There needs to be representation in the boardrooms where people are responsible for signing off on things like messaging, campaigns, tone of voice, and brand. Here are a handful of ways to achieve this:

  • Diverse hiring practices – A no-brainer. Implement inclusive hiring practices to build a team with varied backgrounds, including different races, genders, ages, abilities, and cultural experiences. This can involve reaching out to diverse job boards, community organizations, and colleges.
  • Inclusive workplace culture – Foster an environment where all team members feel valued and heard. This includes promoting a culture of respect, providing bias training, and encouraging open dialogue.
  • Collaborative partnerships  – Work with external consultants, community leaders, and organizations that represent different demographics to gain insights and feedback on campaigns.
  • Focus groups/customer surveys – Use diverse focus groups and surveys to gather input from various segments of your target audience. This can provide valuable perspectives on how your campaign might be received.
  • Inclusive decision-making – Ensure that diverse team members are included in key meetings and decision-making processes. Actively seek out their opinions (this can include anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes, and open forums) and consider their input in final decisions.

Listening to Your Audience

My second suspicion on why Bumble’s ad campaign missed the mark is that they weren’t really listening to their audience.

At different points in the life cycle of a business, especially when big changes are afoot, a company should do a pulse check. That check should involve investing in a round of stakeholder interviews.

A stakeholder interview is a structured conversation with individuals who have an interest in a project or decision. Those individuals should include a mix of employees, customers, and partners. Its primary purpose is to gather insights, identify needs and challenges, and build support by engaging diverse perspectives. This process helps ensure decisions are well-informed and aligned with stakeholders’ interests, mitigates potential risks, and fosters better communication and stronger relationships.

Now, it sounds like Bumble did just that when making adjustments to the Bumble app. They now have a user identify their intentions upfront. Also, they’ve made it easier for someone to start the conversation. But maybe where they missed the mark was seeing if people felt represented and included when they saw the new Bumble ads.

In Conclusion

Bumble issued an apology for their controversial ad campaign. They acknowledged the mistake and the harm caused, stating, “We made a mistake” and promising to remove the ads. The company also announced donations to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Additionally, they donated to other organizations to demonstrate support for marginalized communities affected by the campaign. As an ongoing effort, they invited continued feedback to improve future initiatives.

It would seem that the formula for an optimal corporate apology is: admit wrongdoing + offer donation (time/money) + request feedback = the path forward. Don’t argue with your consumer or be defensive. Position the company in the place of listening, learning, and vowing to do better.

Take the time to digest and analyze the feedback expressed by your audience. And when it comes time to return to the drawing board for the next marketing campaign, you won’t be fumbling over the same old mistakes.


You Don't Want to Miss This

A monthly newsletter with creative inspiration, industry tips, and good vibes.