When Hinge set out to work with influencers, they didn’t want anyone “safe” -- they wanted real. The kind of real that aligned itself with their unique and authentic positioning in the dating app space.
Nailing an influencer partnership is no small task, as evidenced by scores of bad team-ups and articles claiming the death of influencer marketing is upon us. But this wasn’t Hinge’s fate.
For starters, Hinge’s clear brand voice allowed them to rule out any and all candidates that didn’t fit the bill. Plus, Hinge made a partner out of The Social Standard, the company creating powerful partnerships by uniting brands with top social talent.
The result? Partnering with powerful influencer Cody Ko. A YouTuber with nearly 3.5M subscribers, Cody represents a big win not just for Hinge, but in the way that influencer partnerships can pay off at an advanced level.
So how’d they find the right fit? Brand Storytelling caught up with Molly Fedick, Creative Director at Hinge, to learn more about cultivating Hinge’s brand voice, her pursuit of the ideal influencer partnership, and the importance of fostering relationships with companies like The Social Standard:
From its “designed to be deleted” slogan to its visual identity, Hinge has a very “no-nonsense” and “real” brand voice. What goes into cultivating and maintaining that brand voice?
Thanks -- I'm glad that's coming through!! Speaking to our community in a very real, non-sales-y way is the center of everything we do. The word "authentic" gets thrown around all the time by marketers. For me, it's all about remembering that the people who use our product are basically...well...me! There is literally nothing different between me and my team and the people using Hinge all over the world. So I always ask myself, how would I want to be advertised to? And the answer to that question is that I want honesty. For example, it's totally unrealistic to expect that someone using Hinge hasn't (or isn't) using a competing dating app. That's just totally insane. So, we don't pretend we're the only dating app out there, or that everyone should be using Hinge -- instead, we focus on what makes Hinge different, and then we let the user decide if that's up their alley. We're cool with people using it...and we're also cool with people actively choosing to not use us.
Another reality we talk a lot about is that sometimes, dating sucks. In this space, it's tempting to be weirdly cheerful or bizarrely hopeful all the time. Uh, news flash...dating is really hard sometimes, and sometimes you're going to meet a total weirdo. Other times, you're going to want to sit at home and order $60 of takeout instead of going on another first date. We acknowledge this a lot in our memes, which we use not only on our Instagram page, but also as ads. They've been so successful at converting people, I think, because users truly believe we're on their side. And we really are!
Lastly, the no-nonsense design aesthetic is fully on purpose. Our users are not looking for bursts of confetti, 50,000 pop-ups prompting them to do XYZ, etc...they just want to meet someone and get off the damn app. Hence, "designed to be deleted." I think Hinge is the perfect mix, design-wise, of utilitarian and friendly.
When and how did you set out to work with influencers? What criteria was set internally to help streamline the process?
I knew I wanted to work with influencers the second I started at Hinge over two years ago. At that time, mainly CPG companies were using influencers -- basically, it was Kim Kardashian holding up a bottle of hair vitamins telling people to "check these out!" Our challenges at the beginning were many -- the biggest being the absence of a major budget. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We were forced to come up with creative ways to use our influencer content, which ended up being, put spend behind Instagram influencer posts, and run them as ads. In addition, we have influencers send us raw video files when they make stories so we can run those as ads as well. That way, the content lives for longer than 24 hours, or an Instagram feed cycle.
When our budget grew enough to include YouTube and podcast sponsorships, we knew we ONLY wanted to work with people who were actually familiar with the app and had used it. That's why I immediately went to CodyKo. I was familiar with his YouTube channel because it's one of the less cringe YouTube channels out there (sorrrrrry, YouTubers), and I remembered seeing him on Hinge's Most Eligible Users list a year or so prior. That's a list we compile of actual users who are deemed "most eligible" by other users...not to inflate Cody's ego any further!
We started with a YouTube video. As a person who is obsessed with YouTube myself, I know there is nothing more annoying than a terribly executed integrated ad or sponsorship. It comes off as forced, and to be honest, people come away from that video thinking their favorite creator has sold out, and that the brand is lame AF. So, when we partnered with Cody, I was clear I did NOT want him to veer from his regular style or content buckets. We decided together to execute a "That's Cringe" video about couples -- "That's Cringe" is one of his most popular series. He talked all about being on Hinge, included screenshots of his profile, and then talked about getting off the app when he met his girlfriend. It was all very organic and seamless. Also helped that "cringe" rhymes with "Hinge." ;)
How did the Social Standard fit into Hinge’s pursuit of a brand ambassador?
Social Standard is a literal lifesaver for me and my team! We are super lean, and they do pretty much everything for us aside from creative approvals, which I do. Their team is awesome -- we have a dedicated person identifying influencers, a dedicated person identifying podcasts, a sales guy to handle all the money stuff, and a whole slew of people ensuring posts are going up on time, changes and revisions are made, etc.
In addition to the day-to-day help, Social Standard has been instrumental in getting us set up with software we didn't even we know we needed, like CreatorIQ… we now use that account every day. They've also introduced me to people like Casey Neistat. The idea of working with him came up over a year ago, but it wasn't the right time. They didn't push it...and now it IS the right time, and we're trying to work something out with him. I really appreciate Social Standard's non-pushy attitude. They've never pushed ANYTHING on me -- spending more money, increasing budgets, etc...instead, they are always looking for ways I can SAVE money, get more value out of my influencer content, etc. Really, this company has gone above and beyond in every way.
The Social Standard has also been able to negotiate some really great deals for us. Being loyal to them has been well worth it.
In your eyes, what is the most valuable aspect of telling a brand’s story?
Telling a brand's story is so valuable because it gives you a chance to interact in an honest, authentic, vulnerable, two-way manner with your customers. If you've done a good job telling your brand's story, you ARE going to create interesting, meaningful conversation about important topics. In Hinge's case, we're having super interesting dialogue about things NO ONE wants to talk about in dating: things like, why do people treat each other so poorly in today's dating culture? What are the consequences of being addicted to your phone? We also talk about fun things, too -- for example, Cody's content highlights how ridiculous dating app profiles can be...and guess what? WE AGREE! Dating app profiles can be hilarious and there is no need to take anything too seriously.
Overall, I just love that we've created a truly two-way brand. Our Instagram DMs are constantly filled with people who want to talk to us, and these messages are meaty. I consider that a massive compliment.
Learn more about Hinge and The Social Standard at ELEVATE, the premiere retreat for brand storytellers and their partners.
About Molly Fedick
A former journalist, Molly is a “content first” creative director, focusing on great storytelling and authenticity above all else. As Creative Director at Hinge, she leads strategy for marketing, content, and social campaigns. A true “hacker,” her projects include spearheading an unorthodox (some may say crazy) Instagram and Reddit “meme takeover,” building a wildly-successful neighborhood-specific ad campaign, leading the Hinge social team in overtaking Hinge’s two biggest dating space competitors on social, and building an influencer program featuring custom podcast segments vs. traditional sponsorships. Outside of Hinge, Molly is a contributing writer for several national magazines and websites, and continues to build viral accounts (5MM+ followers). She has created countless pieces of digital content for clients including Coca-Cola, Grey Goose, and Urban Outfitters.