Head of brand at Chappy
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”