Cheating spouses found their secret affairs exposed in 2015 after Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people, suffered a giant data breach.
Hackers exposed the data of 32 million users, resulting in separations, divorces and even suicides. The scandal also exposed that Ashley Madison used bots to impersonate attractive young women to lure men to the site.
It was unclear how Ashley Madison would recover. But since then, the site has made a turnaround.
In 2020, Ashley Madison’s user base grew to 70 million — up 5.5 million registrations from the year prior and from nearly 40 million in 2015 — as people searched for connections in the pandemic. Men are charged to contact someone on the site, but women are able to register for free. On average, there are 10 male active accounts for every seven active female accounts.
To change that ratio, Ashley Madison is focusing on marketing to women, who tend to be more dissatisfied in their relationships than men. Sixty-four percent of women said they felt sexually neglected in their relationships, according to Ashley Madison’s Good Wife study.
“We have found that if you've been married to someone for 10, 15, 20 years, so much can change in that time,” Isabella Mise, communications director at Ashley Madison, told Campaign US. “Couples don't always grow at the same rate or change together.”
According to Mise, Ashley Madison emerged from the scandal by listening to its members and getting insights on how they feel about infidelity and relationships.
“Whether or not you agree with Ashley Madison, you can’t deny the site’s sheer popularity,” she added.
Recently, Ashley Madison has gotten creative with its marketing tactics. In September, the site launched its first-ever merch collection, “Sexual Health Is Wealth,” in collaboration with love and sex coach Shelby Sells. The collection includes clothing items with cheeky phrases, like a “Climax” tote or “Go Down or Go Home” T-shirt.
Mise hopes the collection will get people talking about sexual wellness and ultimately bring attention (the good kind, that is) to Ashley Madison.
”I think it’s a great conversation starter,” said Mise. “If you see someone wearing it, you ask them why they're wearing that shirt. And I think that that is a great way to draw attention to this topic.”
The average Ashley Madison user is between 30 to 35 years old, but the dating site has already set its eyes on Generation Z. According to the site, Gen Z is not as interested in marriage as millennials or baby boomers. But, they still want to have a primary relationship.
Ashley Madison says that shift could be due to Gen Z witnessing their parents’ relationships failing as divorce rates skyrocket.
The dating site’s collaboration with Sells, who creates TikTok videos about love and sex, is a key component of that strategy.
“We're going to want to continue to understand Gen Z and take a better look at what that next wave of married daters will be all about,” said Mise.