OkCupid: The Curious Story Behind this Flirtatious Dating Brand

Flirtatious Dating Brand

Things weren’t always okay at the online dating startup, OkCupid. In fact, their brand search and naming process was anything but straight as an arrow. The story goes something like this.

OkCupid’s co-founders , Max Krohn and Chris Coyne, had been collaborating for a while. They were the leaders of a successful startup venture called SparkNotes. They had also developed a “dating product” called SparkMatch but it failed to meet their expectations and was abandoned.

Still, in 2003, Max and Chris decided to create a free, people matching platform. However their website ran into problems including slow speeds and high infrastructure costs. The solution they found was to move the site onto Max’s secure, high tech, framework, which he had built as part of his PhD program at MIT. With the website situation stabilized they began to consider rebranding the project. Their first choice was SparkDate but that idea had to be taken off the table due the sale of their study guide company, SparkNotes, to Barnes & Noble.

So, they began a prolonged search for a new brand. They decided they wanted a name that identified their site as a free dating platform but also prevented any assumptions that they were a paid, dating service promising true love and a happily ever after.

According to Chris, he wanted the brand to fulfill three conditions:

  • It made sense sober
  • It made sense drunk
  • It made sense 30 days in a row

This unusual criteria led to a very large number of brand possibilities which were compiled on a giant spreadsheet. Finally the team settled on the name OkCupid because it most aptly communicated their core services as a free and casual, matchup, dating site.

However, after the company was launched, Chris still had some reservations. Although he felt the name sounded good both drunk and sober, he wasn’t sure he liked it for 30 straight days. One of the reasons was a conversation that repeated itself, almost word for word, every time he went to a party. According to Chris, the conversation went something like this:

  • I work for a dating company
  • Oh really? What’s it called?
  • It’s OkCupid.com
  • Oh cool. Cupid.com!
  • No, it’s O and K and then Cupid.com
  • Oh…..okay

Chris says this happened about 50 times and each time the person ended the brief exchange by saying the word, okay. He says it happened every single time!

Other products Chris had co-founded, like Spark Notes, he found to be very satisfying as brands and he felt confident that they met all of his, albeit unorthodox, conditions and criteria. But in the case of OkCupid, he still feels it was “never really a perfect name.” However, he admits, as the platform has grown, both in size and customer recognition, the name has “worked out very well.” Most importantly, he says, he’s never found one that fit any better.