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Bumble Bungles Billboard Banners

A major marketing misfire from an app known for relationship building

Bumble apologized publicly and profusely for a series of LA billboards suggesting that celibacy is a bad thing, not a good thing. Implying that, conversely, Bumble is a good thing for lonely hearts (or some body part). Bad landing, right airport?

While some users may employ Bumble for “casual encounters,” they aren’t Bumble’s normal target audience. Unlike dating app market leader Tinder, Bumble users specify whether they’re looking for a relationship, friendship (Bumble BFF) or networking (Bumble Bizz).

Game, Set, Match?

Many observers have concluded that Bumble’s declining fortunes – cratering membership and and an 80 percent drop in its shares since 2021 (when the company went public) – convinced them to make ads chasing Match Group’s sexually active Tinder audience.

I don’t think so. I reckon Bumble was hunting new users who’d never used or given up on dating apps.

That’s a massive potential audience. An August 2024 OnePoll/Forbes Health survey of 5k respondents found “nearly three in 10 U.S. adults saying they have used a dating site or app.

If we work from U.S. Census data identifying 117m Americans of all ages as single, 70 percent non- or ex-dating app users is the lion’s share of the singles market. Seven out of ten singles equals roughly ninety million non-app using singles.

Given the ads, the question then becomes, are they celibate? And is that something they want to change? Market research or focus group failure? It sure seems so.

The Truth About Sexless Singles

An October 2023 study of 17,744 people of all ages (profiled in revealed that 15.2 percent of men and 26.7 percent of women didn’t have sex in the last year. Some 8.7 percent of men and 17.5 percent of women reported not having had sex for five years or more.

That’s still enough singles to form a clientele whose membership would lift Bumble out of the doldrums. Only… Medical News’ article also asserts that “sexless Americans reported very similar happiness levels as their sexually active counterparts.”

The blowback (so to speak) against Bumble’s anti-celibacy billboards indicates that plenty of these happy, sexless American were deeply unhappy about being told that “they know full well” that celibacy is “not the answer.”

I also think it’s safe to surmise that the ads’ sneering, condescending tone is what really riled Bumble’s “new” target audience.

You might also suggest that featuring a masculine-looking woman as a model implies that failure to mate turns non-app using women into lesbians, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Projection Not Perfection

Except to say that Bumble and its ad agency are most likely sex-obsessed, projecting their own predilection onto their prospective customers.

If Bumble’s billboard had said something gentle about using their app to not be lonely, you wouldn’t be reading articles or social media posts lambasting Bumble for insensitivity and misogyny.


Yes, there is that. Bumble started life as a dating app where the woman had to make the first move. That ended this month. With an opt-in allowing men to start the proverbial ball rolling.

Even so, it pissed off a lot of women, who considered the change a “man-centered” move that betrayed the spirit of the app. A diss on their self-worth outside of and regardless of sexual congress.

Mea Culpa

Bumble has backtracked on the ads, and how. Here’s their Instagram apologia.

Medical News Today begs to differ on that last sentence.

Some people mistakenly believe that trauma or a mental health condition leads to it, but there is no evidence of this. Asexuality does not require a “cure.” No one should ever pressure another person to have sex.

Anyway, the post offers more groveling, including an unspecified donation to The National Violence Hotline and handing over their billboard contract to their PC “partners.” But the damage is done.

I suspect Bumble will continue bumbling along, even though it’s lost a huge amount of credibility amongst daters looking for “something serious.” At the end of the day, practicality trumps political correctness.

Marshall McLuhan Gets the Last Word

Which still leaves a whole lot of singles who don’t see dating apps as desirable. America being America, this won’t be the last time dating apps appeal to untapped members of the singles demographic. So to speak.

The lesson for anyone attempting to do so: sometimes the message is the medium.

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