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Bumble Communications Director for APAC Lucille McCart on bringing the flipside to dating

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — There are dating apps, and there is Bumble. When the app first debuted in Australia in 2017, Lucille McCart was not the most eager to be involved in it. Having a strong background with women-centric products and brands, however, she was made part of the PR team to roll out Bumble in the APAC region. At the time when dating apps were something seen as sleazy and hook-up centric, Bumble singled out itself as the platform where women make the first move.

“I got on board really quickly when I realized that [being hook-up centric] was exactly what it was trying not to be,” Lucille shared. In what she describes as a two-year job interview, she showcased her capability to shape the brand’s messaging with campaigns and publicity initiatives to introduce Bumble’s ecosystem before joining in-house in 2019 as a Senior Marketing Manager. She also considers herself privileged to be there at an early stage of the business, chalking it up to her skillset and hard work.

Since then, Bumble has come a long way in removing the stigma around dating apps and empowering women to take charge of their relationships, whether they are dating in search of long-term commitment or casual fun.


For the now-Communications Director for APAC, she says a huge part of their work post-Covid is to rekindle the joy in human connection by personalizing the in-app experience towards finding one’s most genuine and authentic fit. Lucille sat down with adobo Magazine in an exclusive interview to talk about Bumble’s evolution as a platform, normalizing finding love online, and women making the first move.

Handling a big region in a global company, what does your day to day look like?

No day is really the same but generally, I start my day catching up on everything that’s come through overnight; being part of a fast-moving global business with big offices in Austin, Texas and London in the UK. By the time I wake up in Australia (I’ve got team members in Brisbane, and Singapore, and Mumbai), I catch up and hear what has been going on, and generally stay plugged into our competitor landscape and the dating landscape.

Dating is really a part of our social lives. It’s not really a separate part of your life so anything that’s happening, like current affairs, big news, events affect people’s appetite for relationships and dating. Bumble is a women-first brand, founded by women, for women so tapping into current conversations and keeping up to date in terms of how our women audience is feeling is part of the job. For example, in Australia, there’s been a push for new legislation around affirmative consent. Then there’s my actual job, which is putting together plans, or working with my team, and doing interviews like this. This has a lot more to it.

What are some of your favorite rom-coms and guilty pleasure films?

My favorite movie of all time is Notting Hill. I would recommend watching it because it’s one of those romcoms that you can watch again and again and it has aged well. You know how sometimes you look back at a movie you loved when you were younger and you’re like, “Well, this hasn’t aged well?” Notting Hill is still a perfect movie and I would say my guilty pleasure is Love Island UK.

What was your view of dating prior to joining Bumble and how has it changed?

Bumble has been around for 10 years this year. I have been with Bumble for five years now and two years prior to that, I was working at a PR agency and working on the launch of Bumble in Australia in 2017. That was right around the time that dating apps were starting to ramp up in this part of the world and I remember people had safety concerns and there was stigma around meeting people online like it made you look a bit desperate. A lot of the early dating app products were built for men and there wasn’t really a brand that was centering the dating experience for women.

When my boss asked me to start working on this thing called Bumble, I got on board when I realized that the women-make-the-first-move feature was really built by a woman who understood how gender roles impact relationships. It totally changed my view on a lot of things but I remember, it wasn’t that long ago I was speaking to journalists about women-make-the-first-move and people spoke about it like it was a gimmick or something that wouldn’t work.

Bumble’s ethos now is not what it was 10 years ago. Back then, people did not think it was the role of a woman to make the first move in a relationship and that has changed so much partly due to what Bumble has done so it’s interesting to look at what it where it is today, and realize how far it has come.

It’s very easy to lose perspective of the fact that dating is meant to be fun. A lot of the work that we’re trying to do at the moment is to remind people in this post-Covid landscape that it’s okay to go out and meet new people just for fun. We’ve all missed out on a lot of human connection and it’s okay to enjoy your life and do the things that make you happy.

Bumble has made a name for its women-first approach. What were the challenges of breaking that messaging into a conservative market like Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia is a very interesting region; it is conservative in some ways and not in others. The Philippines, for example, has such a vibrant LGBTQ community that wholeheartedly accepted Bumble, and it’s one of the fastest-growing and biggest markets in Southeast Asia. We noticed the types of filters that people use like education and religion are bigger factors here than in other parts of the world but at the same time, the adoption of dating apps in Southeast Asia has grown really quickly.

The biggest hurdle really was just normalizing the idea of dating, finding your partner online, and giving women permission to explore and have the agency in their relationships to be able to date on their own terms.

In this year’s dating trends, there were several predictions but the timeline decline is particularly interesting. Tell us more about that.

Timeline decline refers to the phenomenon of women pushing back on the traditional timelines, and time pressures that have been imposed on us like you have to be married by this age having children by this age, and they’re made up rules. People and women especially are building the confidence to push back and set boundaries with family members that might be applying pressure for them to settle down or bring grandchildren into the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean that women in the Philippines don’t want to have a serious relationship or eventually settle down. It just means that they want to be given the time and space to get to those milestones in the way that feels the most natural for them.

Building up on that, you predicted 2024 as the year of the self where daters are more introspective and being authentic while embracing vulnerability. How do you suppose that would impact the dating pool in terms of success rates and stepping out of their comfort zones?

The thing that I always say about dating is that it is quality over quantity. It’s not necessarily about how many matches you get, how many dates you go on, how many likes you have, it’s about the quality of those conversations, connections, dates, and often fewer is better.

If you are focusing on compatibility, you go and swipe your little heart out and get 100 matches, that might make you feel great but you can’t realistically talk to 100 people. Those 100 people are not all going to be compatible partners for you so it’s wiser to apply an internal filter to the people that you want to swipe right on and that you want to match.

The year of the self is about encouraging people to think about what they want to achieve out of dating and make decisions based on that. Is it a serious relationship? Is it marriage? Is it just casual dating and meeting new people and learning things about myself?

For any dating platform, the goal is to find your partner and ultimately delete the app. How do you reconcile that with the need to grow your userbase?

It is one of those things where it doesn’t add up on face value. People get in and out of relationships every day for a number of reasons, and we see is a real cycle of people coming on and off the app like current and people can open the app and see different people every time. There are still people out there who haven’t tried dating apps yet and the possibilities are always endless.

One of the things that we’ve been building is Bumble for friends, which allows us to expand our customer base into people that are in romantic relationships but looking to expand their friendship circle. There are reports coming out all the time about global loneliness because a lot of people lost friendships during the pandemic in the sense that you don’t see the people who used to see on your commute, you don’t spend as much time with your friends because maybe you’re not going for afterwork drinks anymore if you’re not going into the office as much. There are factors that contribute to people not having the degree of social connection that they previously had so apps like Bumble for friends help solve that problem.

The continuous evolution of the market is always a challenge for any industry. Would you ever see Bumble pivoting drastically in its marketing strategy?

Who knows? Anything could really happen in the next 10 years but if you look at Bumble today versus Bumble 10 years ago, our mission and our ethos are the same but our product is completely different. When we launched, we didn’t have half the features that we have now; we’ve got video chat, AI safety features, and this whole suite of things that have made the dating app experience easier to navigate.

In terms of product functionality, that will only be stronger over the next 10 years to make things easier, more fun, more efficient. What I don’t ever really see changing is our women-first focus and what that looks like might evolve but it won’t really change because we still really believe that there aren’t enough products out there that serve women and women’s needs. The thing that’s never going to change is our focus on women, equality, safety and making sure that anyone that’s using our platform can find a relationship that’s respectful.

If there’s no need for a product like Bumble in 10 years time, great because that means amazing things have happened but unfortunately, I think some of the data that we’ve seen say we’re 100 years away from gender equality and in some parts of the world, that discrepancy is even larger.

In terms of campaigns, what are some of your favorite initiatives and activations in the region? How do you localize them to specific countries?

One of my favorite ones was the holi-dating campaign in the Philippines because that was an example of a global insight where we knew that people were starting to travel again, and they were more interested in relationships. We introduced features like travel mode to help people do that more easily but what we were able to do is really dig down into what that looks like in the Philippines and develop the term holi-dating and make it into something that made sense for our Filipino community — how they use the app, how they were feeling about travel especially Southeast Asia being a region that was very affected by the pandemic. That was one of my favorite campaigns from that perspective because it was taking a global insight but really making it feel local.

Another example is the recent one that we did in Singapore and the Philippines for Lunar New Year where we worked with Cliff who is a feng shui expert, and he made all of this content on how to use feng shui to reset your space and bring love and romance into your life. I thought that was such a cool idea and it was a bit Lunar New Year and bit Valentine’s Day because they were very close this year. That was a really fun one.


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You think of Bumble as this huge global brand, which it is, but ultimately, we’re connecting people on a neighborhood level so it’s really important for the work that we do to feel relevant to people in a local way. That’s a challenge for a global brand to do but I think it’s something that we’ve been able to navigate quite successfully up till now.

With your unique core and exciting industry, it’s safe to assume that Bumble will always be relevant. How do you see the future of dating and what role would you like to play in it?

Dating is evolving in the sense that we are able to make features with increased focus on helping people find people that are compatible for them and also helping people express themselves through their profile. I think the next era of dating will be about self-expression and authenticity, and really trying to find your people both in a romantic sense and in the friendship sense. We’re all looking for our tribes that are going to build on our happiness and relationships are such a huge source of happiness and they improve your health and well-being so it’s so important to have healthy relationships in your life.

Coming back to what I spoke at the start of quality, not quantity, if you make a profile on Bumble that is really authentic and genuine to you, and it gets half the matches that you used to get but of those people, they are the perfect fit for you. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, it only takes one person to like you.

As a brand, you have a clear stance on empowering women. How does this translate internally, in your company and for your team?

My team is all women in almost every respect; most of our agency partners have women teams and so that is a real pleasure because there aren’t that many workplaces that are all-women but I think it’s about creating a space where your team feels comfortable to be all the things that we just spoke about: authentic, genuine, bring their whole self to the table if they choose to but also challenging them to make the first move and ask for what they want, and have the confidence to pitch ideas and concepts. It’s like creating a safe space but also like pushing them to share their ideas and advocate for themselves at the same time.

Finally, what are some of the things that you wish women would unlearn about not just dating but life in general? What should we leave behind?

I think it is internal self-talk. As women, we are all our own biggest critics. I don’t think men spend as much time beating themselves up as what we do and, women tend to hold themselves to such a high standard in life. Life will beat you up on its own, you don’t need to add to that with this negative and critical self-talk.

If I could go back 10 years, that’s what I would tell my younger self, “You should be your own cheerleader, your own biggest advocate,” because you’ll run up against hurdles, challenges, and things will get tough on their own. When you’re talking to yourself, you should talk to yourself the way that you would talk to your best friend. We’re just so critical of ourselves and I think that is one thing that I would love to see change for women in all aspects of their life: in their dating lives, in their professional lives, in their personal lives. It’s such a thing that holds women back and I would love to see that change.

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