Have you ever felt that your business could be more attuned to your customer’s changing needs? Do you wonder if there are things you haven’t realized that could really help you grow — or threaten your future success?
Many market leaders first became market leaders thanks to a fresh perspective on what their marketplace wanted. But this legacy of thriving in the world as it once was can blind you to the need to find your next, bigger game to play.
Sustained relevance and competitive advantage require you to be alert to opportunities to expand the terrain where you have a unique right to win. To access that broader terrain, you need to identify a more fundamental customer need that pushes at the boundaries of your current marketplace.
Playing the same game differently isn’t enough
Consider the case of Tinder and its competitor, Bumble. Tinder, the dating app that introduced the concept of swiping right to show your interest, has become a cultural touchstone. For good or ill, it’s refashioned how people play the dating game in the digital age.
Bumble, at first, was just one Tinder alternative among many. It was founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd, who left Tinder in 2014 and alleged sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
A legacy of thriving in the world as it was can blind you to the need to find a bigger game to play.
Tinder’s dominance of the market grew alongside a shift in mass culture towards short-term hookups and unwanted dick pics, which Tinder itself catalyzed. Drawing on this context, Bumble took an anti-Tinder stance. It focused instead on nurturing lasting relationships and empowering women to make the first move.
Taking the opposite position to Tinder did help Bumble differentiate. But it was still playing the same game as its much larger competitor, with lackluster results.
Deeper needs mean bigger marketplaces
In 2016, Bumble started to do something truly different. First, they launched BFF, a toggle within the app allowing users to find new friends, in addition to dates. Then they launched Bumble Bizz in 2017, a mode designed to foster new professional relationships.
By expanding their dating app category beyond its former boundaries, Bumble began to write the rules of an entirely new game.
It started with a reframed perspective: the realization that their core capability applied to a much broader set of needs than dating alone. The app was an engine for discovering and initiating connections with other people. If properly developed, Bumble would have a unique right to play and win within the much larger world of relationships in general.
As Bumble began to play this new game, it found the prize was a fundamentally bigger opportunity.
Bumble quickly became the fastest-growing “dating” app because it was now focused on the more fundamental need of finding new relationships, not just romantic ones. This reframe created a marketplace far larger than that for dating alone. Its $500MM valuation in early 2017 became $1B by November, $3B by 2019 and $13B following its IPO in 2021.
Outsized growth comes from rewriting the rules
Now cut to May 2023: Bumble has acquired Official, an app that helps nurture relationships by facilitating mood check-ins, date planning and the like. As Wolfe Herd says, Bumble’s strategy is now to “take care of the entire relationship from start to finish,” targeting the entire ecosystem of love.
At first focused on connecting new friends and colleagues, Bumble now supports all sorts of human relationships across their entire lifecycle. It’s beating Tinder by serving a fundamental need for which the dating app was only the first step. Bumble is playing a new game — not just a better one, but a bigger one.
If you’re a mature market leader, you have the right to define the future of your marketplace.
What’s the takeaway for you? Bumble isn’t yet the established winner, even if it has outflanked the firm who used to be. As good as its reframed perspective is, its future success will depend on many factors.
If you’re a mature market leader, you are the established winner. You’re equipped with many unfair advantages — above all, the right to influence or even define the future of your marketplace. Don’t just double down on the needs of yesterday’s shrinking world as Tinder did. Discover what new game you’re poised to play and win, and lead the way to a bigger, brighter future.
Want to tune in to how your customer and marketplace have changed? Discover the fresh value of your unique capabilities? Our relevance and renewal workshop can help you play and win bigger.
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