Shed Simove has been described as a ‘Marketing God’ – he’s a motivational speaker on sales and innovation, comedian, entrepreneur and author of the bestselling business book, ‘Success Or Your Money Back’. Here, he describes the evolution and reaction to a surprising dating app he launched, and the marvellous mischief he created to market it…
Noise. Disruption. Going Viral. Right now, these are the business buzzwords and holy grails that businesses and entrepreneurs across the globe eagerly chase. Many of us face the challenge of creating a product or service that aims to achieve the second one (disruption) in order to break through the first (noise), to achieve the third (going viral). And it’s really, really tough. Every day, most people in the modern world are constantly bombarded with numerous stimuli, all vying for their valuable attention. And I’m not just talking about billboards, Facebook ads, TV spots, moving banners on websites, magazine advertorials or sponsored blogs, we also have to make time to focus on the important people in our lives, like our friends, family, colleagues, Mistresses or Toyboys too. Every person you want to reach with news about your exciting new business or idea is up to their valuable, sought after, eyeballs in work, relationships and distractions – and so you often need to do something remarkable to reach them.
So, how can you break through all of these competing sources to tell the wider world about your exciting new offering? It’s the six million dollar question that marketers, PR folk and entrepreneurs constantly ponder. These days, it’s simply not good enough to produce an impressive new product or service (and that’s hard enough as it is!), you then utterly have to shout loudly about it so that people engage with what you’ve created.
I faced the same position when I encountered, let’s say, ‘challenges’, within the dating world. I tried many different dating platforms, both mainstream and niche, and never had that much luck. So, I thought about other times in my life where I’d encountered situations with high competition and taken radical steps to succeed, like when I got my first job competing against two thousand other people by going the extra mile to get the Boss’s attention through stunts like sending him a pizza at lunchtime with a laminated ransom type note stuck to the underside of the lid saying ‘I want to give you a Pizza my mind…’. I was swiftly summoned for an interview where I proved I had ideas – and landed the job. What I did then, and I’ve tried to do ever since was use a simple trick, but not many people do it – and that’s to look at what everyone else is doing in the marketplace (or job hunt) and simply do something different.
I believe that as humans, generally we tend to want to fit in. There’s a strong evolutionary benefit to being a functional, cohesive part of the ‘tribe’. Too much rebellion causes chaos and instability. And yet, differentiating yourself in a non-disruptive way is vital to being successful in many areas of life, and something we should encourage in our young – and in all of us.
I began my ‘differentiation’ in the dating world with my Tinder profile. I Photoshopped a photo of myself popping out of a Kinder chocolate egg, and changed the ‘K’ to a ‘T’ to, thus creating the visual of a ‘Tinder Surprise’. I thought that this utterly hilarious, side splittingly funny joke would show ladies around the world how witty and creative I was, and thus mark me out for special attention. I eagerly posted it up on my profile and promptly, precisely no one noticed, or cared.
So, I turned my attention to another dating platform, Bumble. This time, I worked my Photoshop magic on the Bumble logo, which I easily downloaded from the net, matched the font using the wonderful site WhatFontIs.com then under the Bumble logo, I added the words ‘Pick Of The Month’. Now, Bumble doesn’t actually have a ‘Pick Of The Month’ but I thought this accolade sounded feasible and that the perceived conferred high status it might convey may elevate me in the minds of any swipers, or at least catch their attention. This differentiation also fell flat on it’s bee-hind (sorry) and once again, I failed to make a dent in the dating firmament.
So, in the ‘Plenty Of Fish’ dating universe, where there are many, many fish swimming around, all waiting for to be caught, I figured that if I wanted to be a fish that stood out a bit more, then perhaps I needed to do something way more radical than Photoshop a couple of images. And then it hit me, so far I was only ever one fish of many on all the dating platforms, so maybe I could create my own pond instead. By doing this, I’d be the only fish in that pond, and thus the ‘big fish’ by default. Number one in a field of one. I liked those odds.
CREATE YOUR OWN POND
So, I set about building my own version of Tinder. I decided that my dating app would faithfully incorporate the world famous ‘swipe right for yes-swipe left for no’ mechanic but that my app would have one massive, glaring, cheeky, egotistical, and very simple differentiator.
I set about building ‘Shinder‘ (short for ‘Shed’s Tinder‘) with a twist on the traditional online dating model, namely that my platform would only ever display one man available to date on the app, myself. I figured that if you want to truly disrupt a marketplace, then you have to reinvent the method you deliver a product or service, and if you can, remove your competition. Sometimes, in both life and business, it’s easy too feel like you’re getting lost amidst the noise, especially with the relentless bombardment of other people’s lives through social media and news outlets.
There are nearly eight billion people on the planet, and millions of businesses, so it’s sometimes hard to stand out, and yet vital to do so to achieve success. So for me, by being the only man available to date on Shinder, instead of being one of many fishes in a large pond (like I am on existing dating platforms), I instantly became the only fish in the pond. It’s remarkably easier to be number one in a field of one.
Building Shinder was tough, really tough. It took me four, count them, four tries to get Shinder finally up and running. Finding a reliable coder is hard these days, and over nearly a year, I had false start after false start trying to build a dating app only featuring myself to date, that actually worked so that I could go on dates. Each time my build faltered, I thought about giving up, and in between too. It would have been easy to throw in the towel and just spend my time on something else. Imagine getting to the end of a build after months, only to find the app didn’t work properly. And, as my Friends and Family often remind me, I could be using my brain and money for more commercial, mainstream ventures. So, it was super tempting to just stop the idea and never bring it to life. No one would ever know. But, I would know.
I thought about giving up and ditching the Shinder build so, so much. I could have easily cut my losses and moved to another idea in my portfolio (I have over six hundred). But that’s just not in my DNA. When I set out to do something, I have to complete it. I always recall a great cartoon of two treasure hunters digging for diamonds where you can see a sliced view of where the miners have dug in the mud and where the jewels are, but they can’t see the same view. One miner has dug for ages and has turned around, giving up just before he would have reached the huge haul of diamonds, the other races ahead with fervour and will let nothing stop him, thus he’ll soon hit the jackpot.
Of course, on top of having the persistence within yourself that’s vital to make something happen, each of us doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Because we’re sensitive, intelligent, social creatures, the opinions of others can have a huge impact on us. So, I count myself very fortunate that during this time, my Family, Friends and Supporters also urged me to carry on. That gives me such a boost and I really appreciate it (much love to you!).
If something is important to you, then you can NEVER GIVE UP making it happen. For me, when my soul yearns to create something, even though I may be internally very tired and hurt when something doesn’t work over and over, nothing will stop me from completing my goal, so on the fourth attempt at building Shinder, I found a supremely gifted coder called Tanveer Sehgal who understood what was needed to make the platform work (if you hire him, please tell him you found him via this article). And over three intense months, we worked tirelessly to make the app fully functional, so it was built so that I could actually land dates from it. Once I had a working version of Shinder created, tested, bug fixed (many, many times) and ready to launch, it felt like a triumph, but it was actually an excruciatingly short lived triumph, as I now had to get my creation out into the world. So, my second aim was now to promote the app and find out if I could reach a large audience with it…
Now, when you want to shout loudly about your product or service, there are always a number of ways to get your message out into the world, as I’m sure you know. One option for me was to try to ‘PR the idea’ myself, cold calling journalists or reaching out to press contacts who’ve covered my shenanigans in the past. I’ve had sporadic success with this method, but I’m wise enough to know when I need to surround myself with genius experts who are more talented in a specific area than myself. So, with Shinder, I knew I needed to go down the tried and tested route of working with an amazing PR company (budget permitting).
I’m a huge admirer of the skilled and creative people who excel in the PR arena, and believe it’s an enormously talent (that’s underrated by many) to be able to write a phenomenal press release that journalists will adore, place stories in the media, think of creative strategies and clever concepts, to grab people’s valuable attention, especially in this busy and noisy world. I managed to team up with a hot new PR firm with an experienced and clever crew, Ready10 (if you want to hire them, please let them know you hear about them from me, as it’ll hopefully make them even more eager to work with me again in future!). With a solid Shinder web app and an amazing Team of PR geniuses, I had Step 1 of my launch in place.
Q: WHEN IS FAKE NEWS NOT FAKE NEWS? A: WHEN ITS REAL FAKE NEWS…
At the same time, I also wanted to attempt a marketing method that was disruptive (that word again!) and a little bit mischievous too (my life motto: ‘If it ‘aint fun or exciting, why do it?!’). My inspiration arose from the phenomenon of ‘fake news’, and I often find that a good way to generate ideas it to look at what is in the ether and be inspired by something currently in the zeitgeist. As I’m sure you know, the tem ‘Fake News‘ firmly established itself during the Trump-Clinton election run. Untrue stories were being written and published on the net and then many people (who believed they were factual) would share them widely. This caused much consternation in the media and made people question the nature of journalism and ‘truth’.
One of the techniques for creativity that I outline in my motivational speeches is to ‘flip something on its head to deliver a new idea’. So, I thought about how I could turning the idea of ‘fake news’ 180 degrees, to give me something opposite. But, unfortunately, that would only give me ‘true news’, which has been done before (!) and (I hope) will continue to be the predominant method of reporting! But I didn’t give up at that hurdle. I got to thinking that maybe there was a way of creating ‘fake news’ that actually wasn’t fake, but instead, was true news with an element of ‘fakery’ to the delivery of it, instead. My mind then leapt to the concept of wrapping my utterly real news story (about Shinder) in a ‘fake’ wrapping. Hmm….
My mind then leapt to the (now iconic) news videos that certain reputable and trusted news outlets create and release on Facebook and YouTube. Quite a few of these newspapers and websites have a ‘house style’ that has become familiar and recognisable to millions. One such outlet producing short news report videos is the Guardian Newspaper. Their Facebook news videos often feature still images overlayed with text, snippets of video (with no sound) plus the Guardian logo, house animations, colours (white and cyan) and signature font, all edited over an instrumental music bed. Their Facebook videos are usually only 30-45 seconds long and introduce one story. So…bang! That’s was it, I was going to create my own highly realistic looking Guardian News Report video to showcase Shinder. Now all I had to do was fake a Guardian News video. So, I immediately got to work.
A quick image search landed me my first win. I easily found the Guardian logo that appears on the top right of their videos, then soon after, bagged the iconic end animation from a previous Guardian video (I simply downloaded the original video, snipped the animation from the end and inserted it onto mine) and the final piece of the fake puzzle fell into place when I found a font almost indistinguishable from the official Guardian font (the ‘fake’ one is called PatuaOne in case you’re interested – or want to make your own Guardian video report!). I then spent hours copying the Guardian video style and edited up a news story in that style, about Shinder. You can judge whether I did a good job or not, by viewing the video yourself here.
In most countries, impersonating a police officer can get you thrown into jail. But here’s a question for you – can impersonating a news outlet get you sent down too? I really hope not, I’m far too high maintenance for prison. They don’t serve organic food and I don’t think many have steam rooms either.
Happy Valentines! ❤️💕❤️💕 Here’s my latest Shinder video to save The Guardian the time and trouble of making one… https://t.co/INi8r1SUgx
— Shed Simove (@ShedSimove) February 14, 2017
Anyway, I released this video on my social networks, being clear that I’d created it myself, and it seemed to go down well. The fact is, as an oblique experiment in the ‘Fake News’ arena, it playfully toys with a couple of ‘truths’, given the inside content of the video is real – and the wrapping is not. A bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes, in fact. Maybe I just created the ‘Emperor’s News Clothes’? I swiftly produced other videos in this style, one for The BBC and one for Buzzfeed too.
MR RIGHT SWIPE
Whilst the PR company worked hard to get the Shinder story out to their trusted media contacts and land me interviews, I also continued to hustle my end. I’ve always admired the website ‘Product Hunt’ which features, and champions, new software and hardware products. I knew that they had a huge newsletter following and wondered if there was any chance I could get Shinder featured on their site and newsletter, as this would give it a massive global reach to techies and non techies as well. I diligently filled in the submission form on their site and couldn’t work out how to upload an image, so I tweeted the @ProductHunt Twitter handle, asking what I was doing wrong. I didn’t expect to get a response really, and certainly not to hear back from the actual big cheeses of Product Hunt, Ryan Hoover and Ben Tossell, but within minutes, they were both tweeting me back to help with my ineptitude. What amazing customer service and how refreshing to receive the personal touch from the Bosses of a huge company. No wonder these clever, talented and passionate folk sold their site for millions. And now that I was on their radar, this had another unexpected effect. Once I’d submitted Shinder to Product Hunt, Ryan (the Founder of the company) commented on my post for Shinder, which brought it to the attention of many other people on the platform. Then, the next day, jackpot. Shinder was featured on the top of the Product Hunt newsletter.
After only a few days, the cumulative effect all this hustling, posting videos, the amazing PR work, interviews and press releases, was that journalists and bloggers seemed to really engage with the idea of Shinder (many tested the platform to check it was a real life working piece of software) and I began to receive huge coverage around the world, which in turn brought me hundreds of matches on Shinder from amazing women from a huge amount of countries. In fact, if I had a private Shinder Jet (Shinder Air?) then I could be dating every night for months, given the amount of matches I received in far flung places around the globe.
The app received incredibly exciting coverage in the media, including reaching the front page of Reddit being featured in the Product Hunt newsletter and appearing on a number of TV and radio shows too – see below:
‘SO SUE ME!’ – HOW LEGAL ACTION CAN BRING GREAT RESULTS…
This was all very exciting indeed. But what I didn’t know then was that the ‘Shinder Effect’ was to have a second wind. Months after all the coverage and buzz about Shinder launch had died down, something happened that reinforces the adage that ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’. Now, I never believe that one should rely on ‘luck’ or that ‘luck’ is the only reason why some people succeed of fail. Instead, firmly believe in the power of one’s will and our brain’s innate problem solving capability. These two superpowers mean that as a human, we can make anything come to life.
That said, sometimes, when you work hard, factors come into play that you didn’t plan for. And that’s partly why creating anything is so exciting. It’s thrillingly unpredictable how people will react to what you produce. So, when one day, a large wad of legal documents popped through my letterbox, I ripped them open to find that Tinder, the dating behemoth, were informing me they were going to block my trademark application for Shinder™. Now, being on the receiving end of legal action from a big company isn’t ever ideal, but this isn’t my first rodeo, and I knew then that, in an instant, the Shinder story had now gone up a notch in terms of being newsworthy, because when one element in a story is deemed by journalists and bloggers as being in the public domain, and of interest to the wider readership (in this case, Tinder), any other party in the story (in this case, Shinder) is then legitimised by the first, more powerful element. And so, after another press release about the Tinder legal action, a second huge burst of press ensued, including articles by The Sun, and Buzzfeed.
The ‘Tinder-Shinder’ story was even reported on by the head of the BBC Technology News Department, an amazingly talented and impressive woman called Zoe Klein. For me, having Shinder covered by the BBC was a huge honour and thrill. It’s worth mentioning that when I first launched Shinder, the BBC told me that Shinder wasn’t a story suitable for them. But as soon as Tinder took action against me, it meant the story had become a much more mainstream, topical and strong piece of editorial for them. Lesson learned: if a door closes on you, it never really closes, so be polite and try to leave it ajar in case you ever have the chance to go through it in the future.
Also oddly, when Shinder was first launched, two of the three ‘fake’ parody video reports I’d made were homages to both the BBC and Buzzfeed – and both news outlets were not covering the story at the time of the launch. But months later when the Tinder action came about, they both then did cover the story. You couldn’t make it up! Or that is, you can make it up, but then sometimes what you made up can come true!!
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
And recently, the Shinder story took another unexpected turn. Shinder was entered into the prestigious PRCA awards for best low budget PR campaign. It got to the final, and was up against fifteen of the best campaigns and talented agencies in the UK. Then, incredibly, it won. This was a lovely bit of icing on an already very layered and delicious Shinder Cake.
After the whirlwind of Shinder, I’m looking forward to trying and failing and succeeding with more ideas and ventures. I’ve just launched LUBER, a fully functional website selling lube, condoms and over five thousand naughty toys. I even managed to get my brand name LUBER® trademarked this time (and it proudly sits alongside all my other trademarks now), and now I’m looking for someone to buy the whole brand and site, lock, stock, and vibrator.
After nearly fifteen years (!) I’m close to being able to publish my first ever fiction novel, which I know is going to be a hit movie one day, so if you work at a Publisher or Movie Studio please get in touch for a first look.
I’ve also just been awarded a Green Card for the USA, which is an amazing privilege, so I’m now looking for an Agent or Manager in the States who can help me get speaking gigs with companies or plan a comedy tour around the West coast, so if you know anyone, please let me know.
Plus, I’m looking for a collaborator for a new range of quirky charms that go on a charm bracelet or necklace…
As for the dating side of things, I feel like the most fortunate man in the world. Shinder has been a smash success and I’ve been on some incredible dates. So, all this shows that by disrupting the market and thinking differently, you can sometimes achieve amazing results.
I wish you well with all your concepts. Give them a go because you never know where even the most seemingly silly idea may take you. I know from experience! All my very best, Shed.
THANK YOU FOR TAKING TIME TO READ THIS – PLEASE CONNECT WITH ME ON YOUR SOCIAL NETWORKS (I shouted). Shed x
Swipe right (or left) on Shed’s profile on Shinder now: www.Shinder.me
To book Shed for a motivational or keynote speech: www.MotivationalSpeaker.biz
For interview requests: contact David Fraser or Aimée Jacobs at Ready10 on +44 20 3897 0333 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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