You’re probably well aware by now, but FieldHouse has a new headquarters. After a couple of years in Waterloo, we’re now located in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials and I’ve immediately fallen in love with both the office and the area.
Occupying a primarily desk-based job and on a mission to fend off the dad bod, I always try to get out on my lunch break and stretch my legs, so Covent Garden is an incredibly picturesque place to rack up my steps. And on one of these strolls in the sun last week, I came across something that looked rather out of place amongst the cobbles and street performers – a whiteboard.
As you’ll see from the headline image, it reads:
I’m getting married and my brother needs a date ASAP. (Who’s feeling spontaneous?)
FREE trip to Paris?
(Insta) DM him @George.Rawlings
(Sorry mate, had to be done)
Who would turn down an expense-free trip to the City of Lights? I was tempted to drop him a message myself to be honest – I’m sure the missus would have understood. But upon visiting his page out of journalistic curiosity, it turns out George is actually an entrepreneur and the whiteboard is nothing more than a marketing tool to get eyeballs on his dating app – Honeypot.
His Instagram bio at the time read as follows:
Honeypot is just six-weeks-old and, rather than spend the company’s investor backing on “an expensive Instagram influencer,” Rawlings got his thinking cap on and came up with a way he believed would generate offline and online exposure: the whiteboard – an instrument associated with classrooms, staff training and boardroom brainstorms.
But it must be said this effort from Rawlings is very clever. It’s simple but effective – we’re talking about it now after all, right? So, it’s had an impact. And delivering impact is something we know a thing or two about here at FieldHouse.
Having opened for business at the start of August, Honeypot is essentially a dating app for people that aren’t interested in the typical swiping format, encouraging users to connect online and then meet for a drink or a bite later that day to make real connections rather than collecting matches and not acting on them.
To that end, the whiteboard marketing message itself becomes even smarter because it flips the app’s use case on its head, encouraging people in the real world to pause, connect with the message and then go online, where they’ll be met by the brand’s social channels.
Before we dive into the marketing side of things though, it’s important to first hear the inspiration for Honeypot which, like many entrepreneurial ideas, came from a personal situation. “It probably comes down to the fact me and my co-founders were single and wanted relationships,” he tells me. “I’m 27 now and needed to find a girlfriend. No joke.”
Bored of dating apps on offer and unsuccessful meeting people out, they sought a love-finding solution, an idea for which came from Uber. “We called an Uber, eight minutes later it arrived and we thought ‘Well, why can’t you do that with dating?’” Rawlings recalls. “And I think it very much comes down to the whole spontaneous side of what we’re trying to do, which is to build a community of people who like to act spontaneously. And lots of the time, single people have a tendency to be a bit spontaneous.”
Having initially planned to seek other halves with their project, Rawlings and his co-founders quickly adapted the idea from side project to business model and looked to fill what they believed to be a gap in the market. To spread the word, the team aimed to sidestep tube advertising and bus adverts launched by the “big companies out there with deep pockets doing things we just can’t afford.” But something large firms do did in fact trigger their final marketing model. “We thought ‘Why don’t we place something where you’ve got traditional billboards around, where people may or may not take notice of them, and put something that shouldn’t really be there, like a whiteboard?”’ Rawlings says.
The rationale was that people on their commute or travels would spot the whiteboard as it stood out like a sore thumb. And evidently, I’m proof of the concept. “We had to take it further, we thought ‘the messaging has got to be right: it can’t just be a whiteboard with an in your face Download Honeypot, London’s new dating app’” declares Rawlings, insisting that approach just wouldn’t work.
Realising this, the goal became to create a message with “a story and mystery behind it where you follow a trail.” “It’s got to evoke some emotion to get people to first of all take pictures but read into it more,” offers Rawlings. Once the consumer takes the bait, the understanding then follows, he adds. “The deeper you read into the campaign the more you realise when you go back to an Instagram or something ‘Okay I get it; they’re pushing you to an account to tell you about their new dating app.’”
In addition to being cost-effective, according to Rawlings, other benefits are that “it’s very different, it’s unusual, it’s unorthodox, it’s unconventional” and also a “very guerrilla way to make as much noise as possible.” The caveat to that is it’s not very practical. “I’ll be honest, it’s a nightmare to move,” he admits. “It’s heavy, it requires two people. I walked about two miles to take it to the spot where you saw it, which was a bit of a joke.”
Still, for a little bit of manual labour, it appears the campaign is getting the desired response, which Rawlings describes as “phenomenal.” “We’ve heard some really amazing stuff and it literally is just a board and a pen.”
Helpfully, people haven’t been annoyed by the ruse either after finding out their trip to Paris isn’t happening, including the sender of the message that read: What colour is your outfit for the wedding? On ASOS right now and wanting to colour coordinate… “People know we’re a startup and we have to get our message out there somehow,” he says. “And they like the fact we’re not doing it the usual way, where it’s a big, shiny glossy billboard in your face – it’s very raw.”
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The primary goal with the whiteboards was to drive downloads. But did Rawlings score? “Three whiteboards and one sheet of cardboard = 3,741 downloads costing £56.33,” reveals Rawlings. That’ll be a yes then.
Given the result, will Honeypot turn to an “expensive Instagram influencer” in the future? “I’m not suggesting they’re not valuable at all, because they are if you get the right person when you’re targeting the right people,” reasons Rawlings. “It’s very expensive, we’re young, we’re an early startup. Yes, we’ve been funded, we were funded last year, but there’s so many companies doing influencer advertising. And actually, I thought well, for the first few months of us getting this out there, two fingers up to the influencers a little bit and do it our way. We will use them in time, but we’ll use them when we’re ready and more well known.”
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The stunt that nearly put us out of business…😱 Introducing the most efficient way to get yourself a date, there and then. X1 table and X2 chairs from B & Q and Bob’s your uncle. Done…you’re on a date. Spontaneous, in the moment micro-dating. Everything that bang average app called Honeypot is meant to do. @honeypot.dating #CafeHoneypot #MicroDating #App #StartUp #Marketing #Stunt #Live #Date
The idea is that by the time influencers are brought into the fold, Honeypot will have created enough noise that people will have heard about them already, prompting consumers to pay more attention. “We’ve still hit 3,700 downloads but we need to build a brand first and then once we’ve built the foundation of a brand, we’ll go out to the influencers and have that attack,” Rawlings declares.
On top of downloads, there were some secondary advantages to the whiteboards. “Putting a smile on people’s faces – I think that’s a nice thing to do with your marketing,” suggests Rawlings. “Even if they don’t read into it or read the Instagram handle or know it’s a PR stunt, it’s still quite fun, it’s a bit of humour and it’s just a nice thing to see.”