Faint heart never won fair lady: eharmony helping the nation find love in lockdown
When the UK went into lockdown due to the global pandemic, it was a scary time for everyone. But faint heart never won fair lady. This is the story of our work with eharmony that proves that it really does pay to tear up the rule book and market in a downturn.
Keyworkers were the heroes during this crisis continuing to care for the nation while we retreated to the safety of our homes. But with just 7% of brands seizing the opportunity to invest in marketing during COVID-19 (1), it took an adventurous client to change strategy, launch a new product and continue investing.
(1) Marketing Week and Econsultancy Survey, April 2020
When the UK went into lockdown, eharmony saw a 25% drop in site traffic. Not surprising, considering that going on a date had become a criminal offence overnight (2). eharmony’s research revealed that the desire for meaningful connections hadn’t disappeared – indeed for many, the crisis had reinforced this – but the ability to make them had. We had to reverse the decline in demand. Fast.
(2) Coronavirus Act, March 2020
THE BIG IDEA
It was a scary time for everyone, and investing while registrations were falling was especially daunting. But we knew that having relevant conversations with customers during the crisis would lay the foundations for success on the other side (3). So, we decided to be brave and tear up the rule book. eharmony is a cautious brand, but what had previously worked for them wasn’t working now. Unprecedented times called for an unprecedented strategy. eharmony took the plunge and built a new virtual dating product in just four weeks. TV was the clear choice to launch it quickly and at scale – any investment needed to deliver an immediate return.
(3) IPA Bellwether Report, Q1 2020
MAKING IT HAPPEN
eharmony wasn’t the only business struggling – advertisers, agencies and media owners were all feeling the pain. We knew that if we could bring eharmony and the media owners together, we had the best chance of delivering enough value, to allow eharmony to profitably navigate through this challenging time; it could be a win:win all round. ITV, C4, Sky, Viacom and some independent sales houses accepted our challenge. We shared our ongoing performance data with them, and they gave us the latest view of their ever-changing programming schedules. We fought for exceptional value and flexibility with bespoke trading arrangements, and the broadcasters responded in their support of our strategy.
We tested audiences, channels, programmes, regions, creative and dayparts that we’d never tried before. And it paid off. As confidence and registrations grew, eharmony upped investment to levels higher than they were in the same period of 2019. We increased presence in contextually relevant shows like First Dates and Love Island, as well as further testing on channels like E4 despite this skewing younger than eharmony’s typical customer. This unlocked a fresh avenue for growth: younger people newly craving meaningful connections. Some ads, despite strong historical performance, were pulled and replaced with new and unproven creative more relevant to each stage of lockdown.
Turns out, it really does pay to tear up the rule book and market in a downturn. All metrics fully recovered from the fall in March, above and beyond where they were pre-COVID.
- By mid-April, there was a +62% YoY surge in newregistrations – with app registrations increasingby 85% YoY Jan-Jun 2020
- Engagement was up too with app messages rising by 51%
- A significant proportion of customers were different from eharmony’s existing audience–including younger people that hadn’t previously considered eharmony and time-poor professionals not usually exposed today time TV
By continuing to invest in product and brand even in the context of such uncertainty, eharmony was able to reach singles and bring them on board to use our Video Date feature. With a rise in both registrations and messages onsite it’s clear that people have been craving a deeper connection during social distancing.
Romain Bertrand, VP Marketing