You were right to be skeptical about the “Tinder for fighting” app — but did you guess that it was actually a brilliant viral marketing ploy?

In early November, the internet was abuzz about Rumblr, a new app billed as “Tinder for fighting.” Its mission: enabling users to trash talk, schedule fights with strangers, and attend fights happening nearby.

But all of this chatter wasn’t just a bunch of testosterone-drenched dudes grunting in excitement on their social media accounts — the app received significant coverage by a number of legitimate news outlets, according to Business Insider.

Of course, Rumblr never really launched on the promised date of November 9th. Instead, it was revealed that the app had a far less violent (albeit far more boring) purpose than connecting overly-aggressive “alphas” to one another so they can live out their wildest Tyler Durden fantasies: the whole thing was a marketing stunt for a creative consulting agency.

So how is it that so many people were duped into believing something so outrageous?

The Promised Platform

Upon its launch, Rumblr’s Twitter handle invited people to sign up for the beta launch at getrumblr.com, promising “casualty-free casual fighting for free.” At this point, some of the more perceptive users might’ve picked up on the fact that the only social media network integration came from LinkedIn and Tinder, the first hint that the whole thing was all a ruse — but apparently not.

Leading up to the supposed launch date, the Rumblr team leaked more details. Users could create a profile “to find, meet and fight other brawl enthusiasts nearby,” according to the New York Daily News. Moreover, the app “encourages users to insult their matched opponents with this pro-tip: ‘tell your match what you don’t like about their picture.’”

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Rumblr’s developers spoke earnestly of their aspiration to use technology as a means to make finding someone to punch less of a chore: “We’ve been recreational fighters our entire lives and we’re tired of the inefficiencies that exist when trying to find someone to fight. Rumblr alleviates the trouble fighters have when searching for suitable opponents.”

The Reveal

On November 9, users flocked to the Rumblr’s website to sign up. The experience was cleverly crafted, allowing visitors to click through a sign-up process with the promise that upon its completion, they’d actually be able to start chatting with other users.

Instead, registrants were redirected to a page that finally gave up the gag:

“Rumblr started as a portfolio project to help us launch our creative consulting agency, von Hughes… We took this as an opportunity and during this whole time we worked tirelessly, replying to hundreds of tweets one by one, growing the (fictional) brand, getting press, and ultimately developing the ‘beta’ web version that you see today.”

Admirably, the guys at von Hughes directed the would-be brawlers to channel their aggression into fighting more altruistic battles, providing links to foundations combating gang violence, domestic abuse, and at-risk youth.

What Makes Rumblr Brilliant

So in the end, Rumblr was never a real app. But was it, as USA Today so brashly concluded, merely “a stupid hoax”?

Far from it. Rumblr is a fascinating case study on the phenomenon of “going viral.”

Creating the perfect viral content is a business in itself, and when the von Hughes team realized they had stumbled upon a gold mine, they seized the opportunity to maximize their exposure. Like Google’s infamous April Fool’s tricks, Rumblr struck the ideal balance of the absurd and the outrageous, while keeping one foot firmly planted within the realm of plausibility.

The idea of a “Tinder for fighting” brilliantly connects incongruent trends in our society. Combine a cultural obsession with app-based social connectivity and a deeply rooted, primal human instinct, and voila — you’ve struck gold.

At the end of the day, we can all probably sleep a little easier knowing that Rumblr hasn’t been unleashed upon humanity — or at least, not yet — but we have to give a tip of the hat to von Hughes figuring out how to pull the cultural trigger. And kudos to them for using their 15 minutes of fame not only to introduce their new agency, but also to give people a nudge towards some organizations that, unlike Rumblr, are actually trying to do some good in this world.
 
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Author Oliver Cox

Having joined the company as a writer in 2013, Oliver heads up analytics at L&T, crafting editorialized calls-to-action, monitoring results, and strategizing to help our clients start the next big conversation on the web. A graduate of the University of Liverpool, Oliver also supervises L&T’s CMS operations, contributes SEO expertise, and assists the leadership team in an impossibly varied number of ways.

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