Jonathan Kirkland Explains How ‘BLK’ Is Already Amplifying Cuffing Season For Black Singles [Exclusive]

Jonathan Kirkland knows how stressful dating can be and he’s offering a swipe left or swipe right solution.

Source: Jeffery Smith Jr.

Kirkland serves as dating app BLK’s Head of Marketing and Brand where he meticulously examines the highs and lows of Black courting and coupledom. Kirkland told BOSSIP that a study from OkCupid found that Black women are the least desired demographic on general market dating apps, and with that, he wants not only Black women but Black daters, in general, to come to an app where they’re celebrated and appreciated in abundance. 

Source: Jeffery Smith Jr.

Below this expert dishes on how BLK, the largest dating and lifestyle app for Black singles, is continuously finding ways to create safe spaces to find meaningful connections.

He also gives BOSSIP a play-by-play on the cuffing season calendar as illustrated by Davian Chester.

 

When did BLK start and why was it created?

BLK is a dating app specifically made for Black singles and it launched in August, 2017. Since that date, we’ve had nearly 6 million people download the app. The app was conceived out of the Match Group. So it was incubated under the Match Group which is the same parent company behind Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Plenty Of Fish, Black People Meet, and pretty much any dating app you could think of outside of Bumble. They conceived it because they realized that the Black experience in America is different from other people’s experience in America and there really wasn’t a dating app at scale that catered to this community. So they launched it, they incubated it to see how it would do in the market and it took off faster than they even imagined that it would. Like I said, we’re at 6 million downloads and they saw that there was a real need for an app like this in the market and that’s when I was brought into the fold to really lead it as a brand initiative. Prior to me joining, the growth was mainly around paid media; Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Snapchat ads–but when I joined, it really was more of a consumer facing brands, so think partnerships and aligning with the community and the culture more and really going deeper within the Black community and the Black culture than any other dating app can do, or was doing.

What is the BLK experience like? Do you swipe left and swipe right?

From a functionality standpoint, you swipe left, you swipe, right, and you match. So that’s not where our differentiator is, our differentiator is tat we engage with our users. So for example, we talk with our users, we survey our users, we ask them questions because we’re still building the app. There’s a lot more, that’s going to come on the app, but we want to make sure that those features are what our users want. And we also address things that are going on in the community on a deeper level. For example, last summer when I joined April and started leading the marketing effort, the brand effort, I was like, ‘We’re about to do this fun summer campaign,Hot Girl, summer 2.0!’” But then 28 days later, George Floyd was murdered so I decided to pivot that.

I noticed that all these other brands were saying, ‘We’re standing in solidarity with the Black community, we’re standing in solidarity!’ But it’s like, we’re the ones that have been standing for all these years, so we use the platform as a resource, not for others before ourselves. So I was being asked and my friends were being asked by allies about what they can do to help. And at some point, that becomes work on us. So we launched a program called “Educating Allies” and we asked our users, ‘What would you tell your non-Black friends about how can they help?’ We got thousands of responses and we used that as a resource and we pushed that out on our sister properties. Things like that really separate us from other apps because we’re Black 24/7 365. We just go deeper, like with Breonna Taylor we asked our female users ‘As a Black woman, do you feel safe in America?’ Only 3.5% of our users feel safe as a Black woman in America, which is a problem. So having those conversations and diving deeper and changing the narrative in defining our story as Black people is really how we set ourselves apart from other apps.

Let’s break down cuffing season. Where are we on the calendar right now? 

So scouting was in September. Scouting is when you use the apps, do the swiping, have those messages back and forth on the app, and vet out people before you give them the actual phone number.

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

Then we have drafting season. During drafting you weed out the crazies and then the flakers and maybe some catfish. Now you’re texting with real numbers and texting goes to voice than FaceTime then you’re on those phones late night and it’s the whole; ‘You hang up, NO, you hang up!’ type things.

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

And then in October it’s tryouts and public dates. You don’t know if you want to take them somewhere that people might see them cause you’re still testing them out.

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

And then after that, you move into the pre-season.

So that’s when you narrow it down to maybe one or two and you have those deeper conversations, you talk about family, and the holidays are coming up, all that good stuff.

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

And then you move into cuffing season which is December through mid-January. That’s when it’s cold outside, everybody’s in that good spirit with the Christmas music, Mariah Carey’s in the background and you’re gifting. Mind you, not everybody stays on this journey. Sometimes after the holidays gifting that’s when some people might ghost, the shady ones,–but hey, everybody’s on their own journey.

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

 

Then you move to the playoffs which is mid-January leading up to Valentine’s day.

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

By that point, y’all have gotten to know each other, you know, you might not care about the makeup so much, you go to bed with your bonnet on because the goal is to get to the championship.

We’re saying it’s February 13th because February 13th is actually Black love day. That’s what we celebrate at BLK. V-day, that’s general, but we celebrate Black Love Day which is something some people don’t even know about. So that’s the goal. And as I said, not everybody finishes and that’s okay because even with regular games and seasons like with football and basketball, you’ve gotta have some losers.

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

 

Are YOU participating in Cuffing Season? Moreover, are you participating via BLK?

Source: Davian Chester / BLK

You can download BLK via the App Store and on Google Play.

Keep up with Jonathan Kirkland on Instagram at @k.i.r.k.l.a.n.d.

Source: Jeffery Smith Jr.

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