Wednesday, June 06, 2007

eHarmony's Unusual Marketing Break

For most companies, being sued is a very bad thing. This may not be the case for the popular eHarmony website. Online dating is full of controversy, I don't know how often I have heard people sum up a relationship that has gone bad with "he/she found him/her on the Internet" and everyone gives that knowing look. This seems to be an attitude that is particularly true among the religious community.

Many of a Christian persuasion believe that it simply isn't sensible to date people that way, yet online dating is a thriving and growing business. eHarmony has been one of the fastest growing in this sector because of its commitment to matching people based on their personalities and values, and not on superficial factors. It has been the place that has attracted those who are more religious. Recent "bad news" the dating giant has received should only further validate its position as one that is popular for those with strong, traditional values.

In the last week or so, eHarmony has been slapped with a lawsuit because of accusations that it prohibits homosexuals from profiling since the service's objective is marriage and such unions are illegal, the website argues, why allow such profiles? It is also well known that eHarmony's founder, Neil Clark Warren (photo), is a strong evangelical and saw eHarmony as a way of fulfilling his ministry. Most evangelicals strongly opposes homosexuality, Warren would clearly fit that perspective. Instead of being a negative that will turn off potential users, I believe this lawsuit could make the service more attractive among potential users who have had recluctance towards online dating services. Every day there are negative stories about eHarmony when it comes to gays and lesbians, there will likely be Christians citing it as an exception to the more "seedy" services that are out there. In other words, this lawsuit will differentiate them from the competition.

I think, in the end, eHarmony is going to win in both the courts and the court of public opinion by attracting the large evangelical market. I guess this validates the old cliche that all media exposure, is good media exposure.

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