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Starwood Hotels jumps into millennial dating pool with Hinge loyalty perks

Starwood Hotels is teaming up with dating application Hinge as the first major partner for the HingePerks program, which rewards loyal users with branded experiences and products.

Starwood Hotels will likely nab greater access to the coveted millennial demographic through the HingePerks platform, as many of Hinge’s users interact with the app on a daily basis. Fans are asked to follow Hinge’s Instagram profile for a chance to win the first Perk: a staycation at a Starwood Hotels location and a complimentary spa treatment.

“Pardon the pun, but the use or not of this app could hinge on added value beyond supposed matches,” said Jeff Hasen, founder of Gotta Mobilize, Seattle. “A spa visit at a Starwood property could soothe the hurt caused by a ‘match’ gone awry.

“Or it could be just the place to take someone you’ve met. A brand considering a co-op program with this initiative is advised to proceed slowly, which is probably the wise way to go when it comes to a dating site, anyway.”

The social element
Hinge is kicking off its Perks by placing a call-to-action within its app as well as on social media. The dating service is aiming to ramp up followers, and requires that consumers follow @hingeapp on Instagram to be eligible for the first prize.

Users may visit its introductory HingePerks post on the photo-sharing app and tag the person they would like to bring along on their staycation. They are also asked to name their city of residents with a hashtag.

“By offering loyalty perks, dating apps like Hinge can reap a wide range of benefits,” said Guillaume Lelait, general manager at Fetch, San Francisco. “It is a great way to retain existing users and keep them regularly coming back to the app, while also showing the user you truly value them.

“This allows dating apps to build meaningful relationships with their users, while pushing them to become advocates for the app.”

The Instagram post currently has nearly 1,500 comments from entrants. Hinge will select a winner at random next week.

This is a smart move for Starwood to tap, especially as it continues ramping up its strategy to reach younger, mobile-savvy consumers.

This past February, Starwood Hotels and Uber teamed up to offer the hotel brand’s Preferred Guest members the ability to earn more rewards points each time they took a ride with an Uber vehicle, proving that cross-partnerships are imperative for marketers in the transportation and hospitality industries (see story).

Users may now become inspired to visit their local Starwood Hotels property for a spa treatment, or keep the brand in mind when booking a future vacation.

Marketing the right way
Brands must be cognizant of the right way to leverage dating apps for their plentiful marketing opportunities, as too many advertisements could deter members from visiting every day.

Calvin Klein is rolling out its first-ever campaign on fellow dating app Tinder, but the brand should beware of invasive advertising, as users on the app may not be as inclined to marketing in the same manner as on other platforms (see story).

“The landscape for dating apps is dense, and end users are valuable,” said Scott Michaels, executive vice president at Atimi, Vancouver, Canada. “A very recent example is the Plenty of Fish acquisition by for $575 Million.

“So what do you do as a dating site/app?” he said. “You do everything you can to retain the users you have and garner new ones.

“On those lines, a loyalty program is an obvious move. You have to assume that end users are using multiple sites and services. If you can make them more active on yours, then the value of your whole company goes up.”

If undertaken in an organic way, mobile marketing efforts on dating apps could resonate well with millennials and yield brands a slew of new followers.

“Hinge is huge part of the millennial dating scene, so other brands looking to reach a millennial audience would greatly benefit from teaming up with HingePerks,” Fetch’s Mr. Lelait said. “This type of partnership would also help drive engagement and awareness for other brands.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York