Lessons from the Field: What Brands Can Learn from Bumble’s Rebrand

Rebecca Courtney, Corporate Communications Director

Rebranding is a powerful marketing tool, whether you’re trying to connect with your audience in fresh ways, looking to shake loose from an outdated perception or expanding to a new demographic. But if done incorrectly, it can do much more harm than good. 

From Elon Musk’s controversial renaming of Twitter to “X”, to Weight Watchers (now WW) repositioning themselves as a wellness company, to something as simple as Gap’s logo change, there’s no shortage of cautionary tales. 

Most recently, online dating app Bumble’s rebrand has set off a wildfire of criticism, even going as far as eliciting an apology from the brand. 

Why is this rebrand dubbed the “Bumble Fumble” and what went wrong? 

In early April, Bumble, the dating app known specifically for its female-first mentality, mysteriously wiped its Instagram feed and shared this singular, intriguing post: 

 

The comment section quickly filled with “About time!”, “Can’t wait!” and hopeful suggestions on what this new rebrand could bring, such as a more powerful algorithm or better safety features.  

But while the initial teaser fueled a great response of excitement and curiosity, once the rebrand was revealed – a new "Opening Move” feature, some new messaging and a few minor design changes – users were left disappointed, confused and even outraged.  

Weeks later, the rebrand continues to escalate with negative sentiment. 

Especially during this particularly tepid time for online dating as a larger industry, with Match Group and Bumble losing more than $40 billion in market value since 2021, this rebrand could have been the lifeline Bumble needed – unfortunately, it resulted in a sink rather than a swim. 

Based on the above, here's our analysis of where missteps were made and how your brand can avoid these pitfalls.

Mistake #1: Abandoning Core DifferentiatorsScreen Shot 2024-05-21 at 4.28.14 PM

Bumble has always stood out for allowing women to make the first move. This unique feature set it apart in the crowded dating app scene and made it feel like a safer place for women looking to date.  

While Bumble is calling Opening Moves an “evolution” of this founding feature, many see this update as a shift away from putting women in the drivers’ seat. 

Any rebranding needs to honor and preserve what makes your brand special. Straying too far from your core identity can push away loyal users and water down what makes your brand great. When planning a rebrand, make sure your main differentiator remains the heart of your new strategy. 

Mistake #2: Failing to Listen to Users 

It might sound obvious, but understanding your audience goes deeper than just surface-level assumptions. 

In the case of Bumble's rebrand, the teaser campaign initially hit the mark by tapping into the frustrations of women in modern dating- a clear signal to users that their voices were being heard. But when the update was revealed, users were quick to point out that this small update didn’t really provide a meaningful solution to the “exhaustion” of modern dating. At minimum, it didn’t even come close to fixing any of the current complaints users had about the app, such as better filtering options or the removal of bots. 

A rebrand has to align with the genuine needs and desires of your audience, steering clear of any missteps that might push them away. Otherwise, it becomes simply a stunt (and one that will very likely backfire). 

 

Mistake #3: Focusing on Superficial Changes 

In addition to the new Opening Moves feature, Bumble’s rebrand also included slight tweaks to the app’s illustrations, fonts and colors. While there’s nothing wrong with an aesthetic refresh, these changes didn't address the core issues users had with the platform. 

Screen Shot 2024-05-21 at 8.49.02 AM

Does your audience really care that you’re changing your logo to a slightly different color? No. But they are going to care if you’re ignoring deeper issues or failing to improve the user experience. 

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In a rebrand, concentrate on substantial improvements that bring real value. Think about what meaningful changes you can make that will genuinely enhance your product or service. 

Mistake #4: Overpromise and Underdeliver 

Last but not least, one of the biggest traps in rebranding is making big promises and then not delivering. Bumble's marketing campaign promised a revolutionary change, creating high anticipation among users. But the actual update fell short, causing disappointment and a feeling of letdown. This approach can make your brand look desperate and erode trust.  

If you’re going to build up excitement, make sure your promotion matches the level of what’s going to be revealed. Be transparent and realistic about what you’re planning to deliver. While we love doing things big, it's still important to set clear, achievable expectations with your audience, and make sure the final reveal lives up to the hype. 

Considering a rebrand that really hits the mark? We’d love to chat.