I had the privilege of attending the AMEC Global Virtual Summit 2020 and one of the talks I went to was led by Michael Kaye, Global Communications Manager at OkCupid. Full disclosure: OkCupid is a client of ours, but that does not detract from the take out I want to share. Michael discussed the art (and it is an art) of using data to not only tell compelling stories, but to better and more personally connect with your customers – current and prospective – with mutual benefits.

Let’s look at an example of a brand getting it wrong. Dove has been focused on its Real Beauty campaign for over a decade, with some lows but mostly highs along the way. Dove has amassed a staggering amount of data about its audience, but when it chose to release a limited edition line of bottles based on seven different female body types, instead of promoting body confidence, it made people feel embarrassed and ashamed. Dove got the way it used its data totally wrong, and instead of strengthening its connection with its audience, pushed them away.

Michael from OkCupid told a story during the AMEC discussion I referenced which explains how you can be smarter with the data you have readily available.

Given dating relies heavily on an in-person meeting and connection, you would think OkCupid would have really suffered. Right? Wrong. For years, OkCupid has been asking its users questions about their likes/dislikes/interests/opinions to help drive its algorithms that then match people based on what actually matters to them and has gathered billions (!) of answers. Through smart analysis of this data, OkCupid has ridden the COVID-19 wave more elegantly than many other brands by recognising its audience’s wants and needs, and delivering on them.

March 6, 2020: OkCupid started asking daters: “Are you willing to go on dates during the coronavirus outbreak?” (Social distancing/lockdown was not yet in place.)

March 17, 2020: The above question is retired and replaced with: “How do you plan on dating during this time of coronavirus?”

March 31: 2020: Eight additional questions added in about digital or virtual dating based on feedback from users.

June 1, 2020: 25+ new questions added in about dating in this new normal that have been responded to over 3.8million times worldwide.

OkCupid used its data to act as a better resource for its users, developing infographics on people’s ideal virtual date, and shared digital date ideas across its social platforms. It also changed the way in which it spoke to its users: instead of talking about “meeting up” with other daters, it switched to “connecting [with]”, to focus on the current situation we find ourselves in, and encouraged users to stay at home.

So what can brands learn from this?

  • Data IS sexy. Fact. Especially when used in a meaningful way to better engage customers.
  • Businesses often have a lot more data at their fingertips than they realise: it needs to be nurtured so it can be turned into something beautiful that actually matters – much like a relationship.
  • Planning is crucial, but timely reactive outputs are key. Having owned data constantly up to date allows even the largest of businesses to be nimble, and react to the rapidly changing world we live in.
  • Getting personal is what counts. Ask the right questions at the right time, and use that data sensitively and intelligently. There’s no point having a ton of data if you don’t use it properly and waste it.
  • Make time for your customers, get to know one another and understand one another. Did you know that people who met their spouses online have a 25% lower rate of divorce than those who don’t? This analogy applies to brands and their customers: truly knowing your audience will allow you both to enjoy a lifelong relationship.