A few months ago a bunch of us at Cooper discovered a new service for lonely single people. Surprisingly it wasn’t just another dating app where you swipe left or right within point-five seconds and hope that doesn’t make you a shallow human being. It’s called Invisible Boyfriend and it 100% guarantees you will find a boyfriend within minutes. The one slight problem is that the person you’re dating is a mother faking faker. That’s right, it’s all pretend. Yup, it’s come to the point where people are actually dating services. Obviously you can see why I was intrigued.
I wasn’t exactly the service’s target… okay, I wasn’t even close to the target audience. Let me just tell you flat out, I hate relationships. No, it’s not because I’m not in a relationship, but secretly longing for one, and no, it’s not because I’ve developed a borderline unhealthy relationship with my cats. I’m just truly happy being single! I’m young, and I’m spending these years having fun instead of getting all kinds of tied down. However, I wanted to try it anyway. I thought, ‘dating a boyfriend that I create would almost be like dating myself: PERFECT!!’.
How it works
Invisible Boyfriend puts you in contact with a real-life representative who plays the part of your fictional S.O. avatar. You piece together their personality and over the course of a month they send you 100 texts, 10 voicemails and 1 handwritten card. Within an hour of finding out about the service, I was creating Clay, my Portland based barista boyfriend.
"I think a person's reaction to service design often says more about the person using the service than the service itself."
Doug LeMoine, a Managing Director at Cooper recently stated, “I think a person's reaction to service design often says more about the person using the service than the service itself.” And this service was riddled with issues that made it impossible to be useful for a narcissistic pessimist who enjoys the single life.
Picture this: a waiter at dinner asks you how you would like your steak, you say ‘rare’, but when you get the steak it’s cooked well done. This is what my experience with Invisible Boyfriend was like. I opted for Clay to be ‘saucy and sarcastic’ (1 trait out of 6 options to choose from) but what I received was some Valentine’s day-loving, nauseatingly-cutesy, vomit-inducing patsy. If the service can’t deliver ‘saucy and sarcastic,’ why is it an option in the first place?
This inconsistency was one of the first problems I encountered with this service. Service design hinges on the co-creation of value, but right from the get-go they made me not value the relationship that I had set up. I felt that I needed to change my wants and needs to adjust to their service. If Invisible Boyfriend hopes to have long-term success, they need to be able to make their service deliver on what they offer.
Clay also couldn’t do the basic job of convincing me he was real. The tagline on their website is “A boyfriend your family can believe in.” But not exactly one that you can believe in. In the setup process, I decided he would be a tragically hipster barista from Portland. However, in one of his voicemails, he told me, “I’ve got reports stacked a foot high on my desk”... No, you don’t Clay, either you’re lying to me about being a barista or you guys make some weird cappuccinos. There were other similar instances in the voicemails. Not only did they make no sense but sometimes the voicemails repeat month-to-month, and I was forced to listen to that mouthbreather’s voice twice.
One thing that Invisible Boyfriend needs to work on is making the experience more tailored for each customer. Not remembering details like where Clay worked, made it clear that something behind the scenes was disconnected. Those cracks showed through and made the organization look disorganized.
The problem here is that Clay never felt real to me … so I had a really hard time convincing other people that he was real.
On the flip side, I also had a hard time convincing other people I was in a relationship. When you lie about having a boyfriend, it makes you feel like a liar. I thought that I was prepared for this; I thought it would be funny to trick my friends into thinking I was dating someone. The problem here is that Clay never felt real to me … so I had a really hard time convincing other people that he was real. Every time I mentioned his name or told a story about him, I was immediately left with a dirty microwave taste in my mouth. Why was I lying? What was the point of it all?
Invisible Boyfriend needs to make their service more believable for their direct customers. Currently, their primary goal is to make the boyfriend believable to third parties that are unaware of this service; these people are (unknowingly) users. However, their direct customers bear the burden of making the boyfriend believable to those tertiary users.
Invisible boyfriend isn’t the latch on the velvet rope to getting back into the dating game; however, there were some things I learned about myself. I actually found myself smiling every once and awhile from some of his texts … maybe it is possible for my ice cold heart to be warmed up a level to ‘bitter cold,’ (but Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t get your hopes up). Clay knew nothing about me, but he was still able to pay me some great compliments and stroke my ego quite a bit.
Something to keep in mind is that they’re still in their beta phase and they still have a lot to work out. They even emailed me a few times asking for feedback that I neglected to do so as I didn’t want to alter my experience with Clay.
Because service design is co-created by many different people that are involved across many individual touchpoints, the outcome is different for each person depending on what they want and need
Because service design is co-created by many different people that are involved across many individual touchpoints, the outcome is different for each person depending on what they want and need; Invisible Boyfriend could be right for some people. If you’re looking to fill the space in between places with someone more generic than Times New Roman, it could work for you. If you’re being pestered by coworkers or family trying to set you up, it could also be for you. If you’re looking to hide the fact that you’re gay, it could be for you—oh wait, unless you’re a dude, then get an Invisible Girlfriend (yeah, that’s a thing too).
In the end, Clay and I had a messy breakup. Invisible Boyfriend just couldn’t convince me that I was better off. The storage space inside my head that handles revolting cuteness had maxed out from the high amount of sap that oozed from Clay’s messages… and I murdered him. He was never heard from again.