With the recent release of ‘Into’ a new online magazine, Grindr have firmly launched themselves into the lifestyle space. The magazine intends to provide a ‘digital window’ into the LGBTQ+ world, positions Grindr as a true content creator and demonstrates their deep understanding of their audience. Grindr is a fantastic example of a brand that is staying true to its functional roots (a hook-up app), and also pushing itself into the cultural conversation though intriguing activations and playing to a higher social purpose.
Grindr has always been a brand that has done more than serve a specific function, and has an acute awareness of their relevance and purpose in wider culture. Their recent hiring of British writer Max Wallis as a poet in residence surprised many – some who wondered why we were employing poets for in the first place, and others who questioned why Grindr was hiring one. Staying true to Grindr’s associations with sex and hook-ups, Max is set to write about sex and what it means to be gay in 2017, exploring the gay experience through visual as well as written poetry.
Whilst Grindr embraces the fun and playful aspects of the app (see the recent Grindr Emojis and priority tickets to Madonna last tour), the brand is also unafraid to confront the more serious subjects in the gay community. Grindr has innovatively used the technology and mass audience that the app has at its disposal to advance gay rights and the lives of gay people across the world. Part of this involves raising concerns over the number of undocumented LGBTQ+ refugees, which Grindr has combated by using targeted in app notifications to alert people in locations such as refugee camps where to go to find LGBTQ+ refugee services. They have also used the app as a means of contacting people for trials of the HIV prevention drug PrEP, and reconnected sex and politics, by providing a platform for US users to register to vote.
Grindr has further explored how to use their platform as a tool to give sexual health advice, destigmatising the associations with gay sex. As their Vice President of Marketing, Landis Smithers has said – ‘HIV really created such a huge stigma – sex became life or death for so many years, even decades.’ Grindr is unapologetic in its quest to help find the joy in sex again, but do so alongside championing educational awareness around sex. They have worked to transform the narrative of apps such as Tinder and Grindr being the cause of STI outbreaks, by sending out notifications to alert users to outbreaks in their area and providing information on prevention and treatment. The addition of new filters allows users to see the last STI test date of others, and also allows users to openly identify their HIV status, removing the need for awkward interactions or discussions later down the line. These strategies are especially pertinent to the 35% of Grindr users who live in countries where it is illegal to be gay, and whose only access to gay sexual health information and awareness might be through the app.
CEO of Grindr Joel Simkhai has previously said ‘I want you to get out of your house and do things. That could be hooking up, or not.’ Whilst Grindr is totally unfazed and unashamed of their association with sex, the brand is also unafraid of pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a sex and dating app in 2017 – whether that involves poetry, the rights of refugees, HIV prevention or a new emoji keyboard.