Of all the awesome things Craigslist has offered us since its inception in 1995, the “Missed Connections” forum still remains one of the most widely used and cherished. Besides offering strangers the opportunity to meet again after chance encounters, its listings have provided reading material and creative fodder for dozens of writers and artists alike. So it was only a matter of time before companies co-opted it.
The rebranded Las Vegas resort Park MGM is responsible for a freshly painted mural in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, depicting a Craigslist Missed Connections post. It’s a “w4m” ad by a “brunette in green pants” looking for the “yellow shoes guy on the G train.” But there’s an added feature: Instructions for the guy to meet the brunette at that very mural on Valentine’s Day at 1PM. Not only did the luxury brand play cupid by spotlighting a romantic plea from one stranger to another, it also played wingman by providing them with a meeting place.
Park MGM isn’t the first brand to engage in this type of micro-niche targeting either. In 2014, Swarovski addressed two low-key Missed Connections posts to women in different cities, generously offering them its new Stardust bracelet if they responded to the personal ad.
What attracts brands to a classified ads website like Craigslist as a potential communication channel? One reason could be that users can remain unidentified, which allows people to be candid and vulnerable in a way they’re not on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. It’s surprising how authentic our online selves become behind veils of anonymity. Craigslist also plays on our notions of serendipity. We know that posting someone’s description online in the hopes of seeing them again for real is a complete shot in the dark, but we do it anyway. We’re suckers for second chances and meet-cute stories, as Nick Jonas rightly shows us in his recent dramatization of several personal ads on the forum.
Who would’ve thought that Craigslist’s Missed Connections would flourish in today’s brutal “swipe culture?” Perhaps it isn’t despite but because of the fact that the website still looks and feels like a forgotten relic from the Dial-Up Age. Its old, clunky interface is cute and makes us reminisce about simpler times.
Givenchy certainly found a way to capitalize on this nostalgia. The house promoted its upcoming Spring ‘18 show by pasting missing cat posters with tear-off tags on trees, photo booths and patisseries across Paris, Milan and London. The tags instruct finders to enter an online lottery for a chance to win invites to the fashion show. Only three lucky applicants will be picked to attend.
It isn’t typical of luxury brands like Park MGM, Swarovski and Givenchy to advertise products on public murals, Craigslist ads and community posters. But these micro-targeted wild postings boast an intimacy that is hard to emulate through glossy magazine pages or long TV commercials. It’s like a long-term crush writing you a public love note. It makes you feel special.
The greater the illusion brands can create of a small world, the faster we’ll fall in love with them. But isn’t it just as important for brands to navigate this sea of anonymity and fall in love with us? Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology, claims to have developed 36 questions that can make two people fall in love with each other. The questions are divided into sets of three, with each set more probing and intimate than the last one. What if instead of finding out your last online transaction or which Mean Girl you most resemble, brands sought answers to the questions that truly matter? What do you value most in a friendship? How do you feel about your relationship with your mother? When did you last cry alone? Or, heavens, in front of another person?
As companies continue to use wild postings to capture our attention and win our hearts in intimate settings, there lies a real opportunity in establishing “mutual vulnerability.” Gone are the days of polished advertisements and rehearsed press conferences. Authenticity has become the gold standard.