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  • On/Off Relationships

    21st November 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in business models

    Author: Sarah Eno (@enoism), Brand Planner, BBH Zag

    It’s nearly impossible these days to conduct any relationship entirely offline. Professional relationships are managed on email, Linkedin, and blogs; brands develop robust relationships with us through online loyalty schemes; friendships are built and maintained through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to name a few; and more and more people are meeting their romantic partners via online dating sites.

    So I suppose I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised the other day when I came across a set of start-ups in the area of online relationship management for couples. These businesses claim to help us keep the spark alive, monitor our relationship health and generally be happier together by using their online services. Here are a couple in detail:

    • Tokii claims to be ‘the world’s first relationship management platform’ with a suite of products designed to ‘proactively improve relationships’. Couples can use the ‘tradingpost’ tool to trade things like washing the car for a backrub, monitor each others mood through the ‘moodmeter’ and spice up their relationship with fun, interactive games.
    • The Icebreak helps couples keep their love lives fresh and fun through a game-like platform where couples score points by sharing moments from their day, answering ‘icebreaker’ questions and working together to improve their relationship health.

    In many ways, these businesses signal a natural progression to complete management of relationships online. If most of our relationships are blossoming online, why not throw our romantic ones into the digital world as well?

    Whether I’d personally use the service or not (undecided, at best), I have to admire the Zag-like thinking behind these businesses. They’ve identified an opportunity area that appears ripe for brand invention – you can see how by looking at the idea through these three key principles of brand invention and innovation:

    Principle #1. Meet a consumer need

    If romance is blossoming online (Match.com claims 1 in 5 relationships start through online dating), people will need a safe place for their relationship to develop digitally. Consumer need? Tick.

    Principle #2. Go where the money is

    Online dating is a growing business, as is the booming business of divorce. A digital service that helps keep the spark alive and maintain relationship health in the time between meeting and potential divorce could slot right in to this open space and scoop up all those struggling couples. Money? Tick.

    Principle #3. Piggyback on existing behaviours

    Self-tracking and the gamification of everyday activities are both hot behavioural trends currently connecting our ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds. Tokii and The Icebreak both feature metrics and statistics that chart the health of your relationship over time and track improvement. They also reward you for improving your relationship with points and physical rewards, making working on your relationship like a game. Existing behaviours? Tick.

    It’s not easy to find open spaces for brand invention and I’d argue that these two businesses have managed to do just that. Well done.

    But perhaps there’s a bigger, moral question that has to be asked: There’s now a brand called Eulogy in the UK  which aims to bring death and mourning into the online/social sphere; there are countless online dating brands to help you find love; online brands help couples throughout the process of marriage counselling and divorce; and now we can manage our romances online too.

    So, are there any areas of private life that should remain private and untouched by brands?