I love writing about all things social, specifically social software and the horrors of online dating. So imagine my excitement when, sitting all by my lonesome last Saturday night, I came across fodder for a blog post that combines them both.It's about 8pm, I've got a glass of wine in hand, dessert for my upcoming BBQ is in the oven, and I’ve got Facebook open with my ad feed refreshing at lightning speed. Enter Fabdates.com, a new dating website/startup out of San Francisco, whose ads suddenly started populating my screen with increasing frequency. Still not dating myself (remember this?) but definitely curious, I went to the website and was intrigued and appalled. Pre-selected men can create and publish their idea for a perfect date, from rock climbing to wine tasting and romantic dinners in the city. Women can then “apply” to go on the date, for which the men will pay, and the men select one applicant to go on said date. The idea is intriguing; it’s a model that combines the Millionaire Matchmaker with OKCupid. But the execution and marketing by Fabdates.com is appalling, and as a successful, independent single woman who should be their target market, I’m actually offended by what I can only describe as douchebaggery. Yes, I just said that.
Fabdates.com, you’re about to get a burning lesson from someone who knows a thing or two about business in appealing to your target market, early customer acquisition, and, more bluntly, how you’re insulting thousands of single women you need to attract to create a viable business.
Fabdates.com Problem #1: Derogatory and Demeaning Marketing
In an attempt to lure me to their website, Fabdates.com posted these four ads on Facebook. I’m not sure they could get any more sexist or demeaning. They're condescending and rely on stereotypical female myths to woo us into their members' arms. Clearly, Fabdates, you didn’t actually TALK to any women before creating your ads, otherwise they would have beaten you over the heads with an estrogen stick and told you what to actually write to attract the fairer sex. Here’s where you went so badly wrong.
"Let them take care of you" - I do not need to be taken care of. Chivalry is awesome. Paying for a first date is appreciated. But let’s be clear – I don’t need a daddy (sugar or otherwise). I will split the bills from here on out, because I can make my own living, thankyouverymuch.
"Fancy dates" - Have any of you ever been on a first date? They are not fancy and should never be. Fancy first dates suck even more than coffee or glass-of-wine first dates. Odds are that we won’t have chemistry, and how do you gracefully exit a 6-course meal or a hot air balloon ride? Plus, you know what I think of when you say the word “fancy?” Reba McEntire."Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they'll be nice to you..."
"Isn't he so handsome/totally cute?" - Um, like, totally. But the guy on the left is holding a baby in the picture. WHO IS THIS BABY? Please don’t assume that because I have a uterus, the image of some guy holding a newborn is going to drive me wild. It makes me wonder if he’s somebody’s baby daddy, and was he married? How often does he see his kid? Is he even divorced yet? How much custody does he have? And why is he wearing a knitted beanie? He must be a hipster living in Dolores Park. OMG, does he live with this baby in Dolores Park?
"Pick from hundreds of actual, real dates" - Real dates? Like honest to goodness humans? Then let's not use stock photos of teenage boys wearing Abercrombie shirts. You know that Abercrombie anything is code for, "I have to do my Algebra homework tonight after Lacrosse practice," right? I can’t even daydream about him taking his shirt off, because that is probably borderline illegal. If you're marketing real men, use photos of real men. Like over the age of 18, and preferably over the age of 35 if you want to appeal to women like me.
"Single and Lonely?" - Way to go, guys, trying to make me feel bad for being home alone on a Saturday night. Yes I am single and sometimes I get lonely. But you know what? THAT’S LIFE. First dates don’t take away loneliness. They make you realize that you have a snowball’s chance in hell of finding someone that you actually want to spend the rest of your life with. So don’t play the pitiful “lonely” card with us single ladies. We’re just fine. Believe me.
"Guys with Dogs are Fun" - Show me a man with a golden retriever and I'll show you a woman who visibly salivates over the mere thought of being his girlfriend. Not really. Do all of the men on your site need to use props like dogs and babies to be attractive? Because that is how it comes across.
Babies and dogs, valley-girl-lingo, offering to rescue the fairy tale damsel-in-distress type: Fabdates.com, you're insulting all of us women by using terrible stereotypes and talking down to us. It's truly disappointing.
Fabdates.com Problem #2: Premature Acquisition and a Female Buffet
Fabdates.com advertised too early, before the product was ready. Going to the website resulted in a grand total of fourteen available dates by nine men, some of which were attributed to Fabdates.com founder Murtaza Hussain before his name and image were removed over the weekend. I thought there were hundreds of dates available? Clicking on the company blog resulted in a stale 404 error. And the image on the front page? The woman at MOMA looks about as bored as she can get, which doesn't signal the fun that this site wants to convey. Clearly, the Fabdates.com team is still testing and building content, but shouldn't they wait to acquire early customers until the product, website and experience were fully ready? With social software, any startup developer, designer, or marketer knows that the first user experience is key. They've lost me as a potential future user because of my poor initial experience.
More importantly to me, the user acquisition and business model is quite demeaning to women. Remember when an emotional and fragile Meredith Grey begged McDreamy to “Pick me. Choose me. Love me?” If not, it’s 90 seconds worth watching to illustrate my point. Fabdates.com, I am not a Meredith-like-puppy in the window, begging for a man to please come along and take me home. I’m not going to sit around and wait to be “chosen” for potential love by some guy. I will not be just one of your options on some dating multiple choice Scantron.
And I’m not going to “apply” for a date like I apply for a job, just to become one cow in the private dating meatmarket of your male members. The subtleties of your business-like verbiage, reducing love to a corporate transaction, degrades successful females like myself into plastic drones who presumably have nothing better to do than hope to be selected for a date over the course of the next month.
Love is not born of online dating. It does not suddenly appear due to a fancy date or a romantic hot air balloon ride. It does not bloom when a man chooses a woman from a lineup, or when a woman realizes she's been selected like a beauty pageant contestant.
Love evolves as a slow-growing fire between two people, the embers of a friendship burning more intensely as trust, communication, respect and commitment spark a blaze that rages passionately, all-consuming. They call it falling in love because you have no choice – you don’t jump into love, or race into love, you fall – a passive act, something that just happens regardless of the circumstances – a moment when the universe takes over and you become a puppet to your feelings and this fire that burns in your heart.
So Fabdates.com, I urge you to rethink how you treat the women to whom you're marketing your service, and how you acquire members. If you really want marriage-minded, intelligent, successful women for your male members, respect them as humans who have the capacity to love and not as some drones who are out for nothing more than a fancy dinner and fun activity on some man's dime. The kind of ladies you want for your service are the exact opposite.