Measuring ROI is, as everyone knows, a huge deal these days—and no less so for Mandy Ginsberg. But for her, proof that her marketing efforts are working doesn’t just come in the form of a spreadsheet. They’re evident in the contents of a large bookcase that stands in a corridor outside her Dallas office.
Lining its shelves are wedding invitations, marriage announcements, thank-you letters and framed photos of couples—each of which tells the story of two lonely hearts who are alone no more. The display, Ginsberg says, is a reminder that the business she’s in “is pretty rewarding. It’s not like selling socks.”
True enough. As the North American general manager of Match.com, Ginsberg sells an accessory even warmer and fuzzier than socks—love. And in Ginsberg’s view, there’s no better way for a consumer to find love than signing up at Match.com, the company she’s helped build into the world’s largest online-dating brand, with some 1.3 million paid subscribers—a tally that grew by 15 percent this year. (IAC, the company that owns Match, doesn’t break out its financial results.)
Fortunately for Ginsberg, 38, tough economic times have actually turned out to be a good match for the online-dating biz. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people seek companionship when times are tough, and with a basic monthly fee of $34.99, Match.com is a lot cheaper than the singles bar. “People are spending less money and less time out,” Ginsberg says.
They’ve got plenty of choices online though, including MatchMaker, Yahoo Personals and JDate. Fortunately, Ginsberg, assisted by senior marketing director Darcy Cameron, has formulated a successful blend of value-added offerings and a cool public image that’s helped to draw 20,000 new members to Match.com each day.
Since taking her post last year, Ginsberg has been on a crusade to eliminate the last vestiges of the stigma surrounding online dating (i.e., you only meet creeps on the Web).
Early on, Ginsberg injected new life into the already popular tagline “It’s okay to look” by casting real Match.com members in TV spots, and then luring tryouts with a six-month guarantee (if you don’t meet anyone, the next six months are free). The member/stars in the ads were all shot in their home environments, telling their own stories. The result, Ginsberg says, conveyed the message that “there are great people online just like you, normal people.”
With handheld devices allowing people to be online anywhere and anytime, another of Ginsberg’s aims has been to transform matchmaking into an any-occasion experience.
“People want to find great people whether they’re on the subway or home on their computers,” she says. “They don’t delineate.” She rolled out MatchMobile, which allows members to access match profiles via their phones and send electronic “winks” to people they find attractive.
Perhaps the nerviest of Ginsberg’s marketing efforts took aim at its No. 1 competitor. Ginsberg’s team searched for a weakness in eHarmony’s armor. It wasn’t hard to find.
“eHarmony was pretty adamant about not providing people with the opportunity to look for a same-sex partner,” she says. (Late last year, until it settled a suit brought by a gay man in New Jersey, eHarmony served only heterosexuals looking to get married.) “It was,” Ginsberg recalls, “a very aha moment.”
Ginsberg’s epiphany would flower into an affecting ad (via Hanft Raboy and Partners) on behalf of Match sibling, Chemistry.com, showing the face of a handsome young man with an ink stamp pounded across his forehead that read: REJECTED BY E-HARMONY. After explaining that eHarmony didn’t welcome gay consumers, the ad’s caption read: “At Chemistry.com, you can come as you are.” The ad, Cameron says, is a prime example of Ginsberg’s willingness “to try new things and take risks.”
The risk worked. After the “Rejected” ads ran, Chemistry.com’s awareness figures quadrupled, and the brand fostered untold numbers of, well, matches. “We’re truly having an effect on people’s lives,” Ginsberg says. In fact, the most valuable piece of ROI for Ginsberg shows her the number of customers that Match.com is losing—not to a competitor, but to cupid. “Every day, 1,000 people leave the site,” Ginsberg says, “because they say they’ve found someone.”