by Bokang Sibolla. With the rise of new-wave feminism and the unearthing of harmful business practices, our dating and business performances are in need of an update.

The effort required for a successful first date is a lot less than maintaining a long-term relationship. Our focus is on selling the best parts of ourselves while masking the worst. But, once we’re in a relationship, it becomes increasingly difficult to conceal our flaws. The emphasis shifts away from selling a romantic dream toward sustaining interest in a flawed reality.

Sequential steps

There are sequential steps that we follow in our pursuit for a lifelong partner. We wine and dine, making sure that we market ourselves as different from others, and once we’ve built this trust, we create an environment that is suited for commitment and try to maintain our original trademarks as long as possible.

This dating algorithm may go two ways. There are those who see potential in all prospective singles — much like the catcallers who whistle and disturbingly profess their love to strangers. Then there are those who have a ‘type’, saving their attention for those who meet their standard criteria.

But the real value gained from dating, as in marketing, is derived from the feeling you’re left with once you’ve committed to a person or purchased their product. Too often we find ourselves short-changed; we exit relationships feeling worse about ourselves and cynical of promises made during the honeymoon phase.

Comparable to stalking

While it’s noble to put out feelers and select partners at random, not everyone will appreciate what you’re offering. Similarly, targeting a specific partner excludes a majority of potentials based on fetishised criteria and may arguably be compared to stalking.

By putting ourselves and our products on the market, we intrude on others’ valuable time and solicit their resources for our own gain. This is why #MeToo and other human rights movements urge us to consider consent, transparency and reciprocal compassion. To incorporate this into marketing practices, we require authentic business models that are reflective of inner imperfections. The aim is to build a sustainable brand that is conscious of reality and sells an achievable humanitarian fantasy.

In dating, loyalty is gained through invoking emotional connections. In marketing, loyalty is about communicating a story that connects us through a shared vision.

Transformative alignment

Marketing is no longer an outward projection of progressive values that assumes the audience may be easily seduced. Social media and online reviews have opened up exchanges of information where even a first date is overshadowed by past relationship behaviours. To rebuild trust between consumers and marketers requires internal, behind-the-scenes transformative alignment.

The Netherlands-based smartphone company Fairphone attempted to manufacture a device with an ethical supply chain, using recycled components and decent labour practices. While its goal has proven unattainable, its transparent research hasn’t concealed the internal areas in need of considerable labour practice improvements. This honesty, and creation of a platform for the public to hold it accountable for its sales pitch, is the future expectation of consumers and even mingling singles.

Life’s utility is gained from maximising love and consumption for the collective social good. Both these relationships are about preserving long-term interest for mutual growth. For the algorithms to be reliable, we need to reshape the mission of organisations from within.

Live up to marketing promises

Consumers are aware of exploitation, environmental harm and false marketing, making their scepticism of marketers warranted. It’s not that marketing algorithms have failed us; it’s that they have succeeded in perpetuating false truths. Unless companies are able to live up to their marketing promises, the audience has little reason to engage and, ultimately, grow with the brand.

Inspired by Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing (1999): 5 steps to dating your customer.


Bokang SibollaBokang Sibolla is the cofounder and CEO of Algorithm Hackers. Intrigued with algorithms, he has spent his career in digital marketing learning how they impact society at large. His hobbies include documentary filmmaking and teaching; he has shot a documentary called Reconnecting Pangaea and trained over 15 000 African people in digital skills to date. Follow him on Medium: @bokangsibolla.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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One reply on “The algorithm for maximising love and consumption”

  1. The comparative analyses using ‘dating’ to explain best ‘marketing practices’ is extremely interesting. To my delight, Bokang is right, on how we should use the art of courtship to fine tune our marketing strategies to achieve a more realistic, human-face in our digital campaigns.
    More insights and examples could have been used to emphasis argument. I’m hoping to get a ‘thread article’ on this…

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