Head of brand at Chappy

Attitude - - Contents - Words & pho­tog­ra­phy Markus Bi­daux

Chappy’s Sam Du­mas

Sam Du­mas left his job at the pub­lisher Condé Nast ear­lier this year af­ter be­ing head- hunted by Whit­ney Wolf, the founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bum­ble and the co- founder of Tin­der, two of the most suc­cess­ful dat­ing apps on the mar­ket. Du­mas was hired to head up the US launch of Bum­ble’s of­fi­cial gay dat­ing app Chappy, which made its de­but on the UK mar­ket in 2017. With new head­quar­ters in New York, Du­mas is on a mis­sion to make on­line dat­ing a safer and friend­lier space. On one of his monthly trips to the UK, he spoke to At­ti­tude about the past year.

How does Chappy dif­fer from other gay dat­ing apps?

Be­fore Chappy, the sad re­al­ity is that peo­ple were of­ten left feel­ing “less” af­ter on­line dat­ing. It’s a ma­jor pain point in the dat­ing world and we are try­ing to solve that prob­lem. We feel you should see some­one’s face be­fore you go on a date with them. We are try­ing to get away from the land of head­less tor­sos. So Chappy was founded on the prin­ci­ples of pro­vid­ing a kind and re­spect­ful space. Dat­ing within those ba­sic prin­ci­ples shouldn’t be an ab­nor­mal process, it is what should be con­sis­tent across on­line dat­ing.

How do you mon­i­tor and try to pre­vent racial and body im­age prej­u­dices on the app?

We have an in­cred­i­ble 24/ 7 mod­er­a­tion team to en­sure that any users us­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory, sex­ist or racist lan­guage are re­moved from the app and we don’t al­low racial or sex­ual pref­er­ences on pro­files. In ad­di­tion, we of­fer pro­tec­tion such as screen­shot warn­ings, so if some­one screen­shots your chat we im­me­di­ately send a no­ti­fi­ca­tion to both par­tyies to de­ter them. And fi­nally, we in­tro­duced the Chappy pledge about a year ago: every sin­gle user has to sign our pledge, which is a dec­la­ra­tion of good be­hav­iour promis­ing that you will treat your fel­low users with re­spect and kind­ness. We will not tol­er­ate bul­ly­ing or prej­u­dice masked as pref­er­ence.

What was the most daunt­ing prospect of tak­ing on the role?

When I started at Chappy, we quickly em­barked on a series of big de­ci­sions. The first was mov­ing the global head­quar­ters from Lon­don to New York. We did this in an ef­fort to help trans­late our suc­cess in the UK to a global level. Of course, this came with chal­lenges but the most im­por­tant thing was build­ing and fos­ter­ing a strong cul­ture within our team on both sides of the pond. The brand team are the front line am­bas­sadors, so a pos­i­tive, fun in­ter­nal cul­ture will trans­late for the user. The se­cond big change was our re­cently launched re­brand. Chang­ing our look and feel was not a de­ci­sion we made lightly, a lot of thought and re­search went into it. Ul­ti­mately, we wanted some­thing that was grounded in an ex­pe­ri­ence ( some­thing cute or some­thing sexy), rather than in a per­son ( Mr Right or Mr Right Now).

What skills do you need to be a good mar­keter?

The most im­por­tant thing a mar­keter can do is lis­ten to the con­sumer. It’s about build­ing an emo­tional con­nec­tion, re­gard­less of which chan­nels you use or what your mes­sage is.

What are your favourite mar­ket­ing strate­gies?

It’s all about ex­pe­ri­ence. I want peo­ple to in­ter­act with our cam­paigns, to tell their own sto­ries with our help. No mat­ter what we do, we try to put the user at the cen­tre of the ac­tion, whether it’s a call for user­gen­er­ated con­tent, an event or a new in- app fea­ture, the ex­pe­ri­ence guides our de­ci­sion mak­ing. I love our guer­rilla ac­ti­va­tions: we’ve launched Chappy claw ma­chines loaded with merch to high- traf­fic ar­eas of the city, we’ve pa­pered our new brand­ing through­out en­tire neigh­bour­hoods. We’ve even en­listed the help of mo­bile “bike bill­boards” to take Chappy to the streets. I love see­ing Chappy pop up where you might not ex­pect it.

What other mea­sures have you taken to en­gage with the com­mu­nity?

We have united with Glaad [ Gay and Les­bian Al­liance Against Defama­tion] on an in­no­va­tive Chats for Char­ity. For every user who ini­ti­ates a chat in the app, we make a do­na­tion to Glaad to fur­ther their ad­vo­cacy and out­reach for gay youth. We will raise tens of thou­sands of dol­lars over the course of 2019. We are here to serve the com­mu­nity. Dat­ing is just the start and over the next year we have a lot of ex­cit­ing mar­ket­ing and char­i­ta­ble ef­forts we plan to roll out that we think will change the face of dat­ing.

Has be­ing gay ever af­fected you in the work place?

For­tu­nately, I haven’t re­ally felt the need to hide my true self in the work­place, but I would be ly­ing if I said there hadn’t been some form of dis­crim­i­na­tion in and out of work. Just a month ago I was stand­ing out­side my lo­cal restau­rant in New York City’s West Vil­lage with my hus­band, about to head home, when a gen­tle­man got out of a cab and started dis­crim­i­nat­ing against both of us for no rea­son. We didn’t say any­thing to him and it was an im­me­di­ate at­tack on our very core and my iden­tity. It’s easy to for­get that even in these won­der­ful cities, dis­crim­i­na­tion is hap­pen­ing all around us. It gives me chills just talk­ing about it.

What will be your big­gest chal­lenges over the next five years?

The truth is, it is a lot of work to pro­vide a safe re­spect­ful dat­ing space. It would be eas­ier to just open our app [ to any kind of be­hav­iour], but stay­ing true to who are is less of a chal­lenge and more of an hon­our.

“It’s easy to for­get that in these won­der­ful cities, dis­crim­i­na­tion hap­pens all around us”

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