I was reading about the creation of mingle2.com, and what struck me as curious is that at that time (in 2007) the online dating market was well on its way to being saturated (aside from niche areas of the market). At the same time the site really did not offer anything that couldn't be found in the free or pay sites such as match.com or pof.com. The creator seems to have applied some very creative guerrilla marketing strategies that allowed the site to obtain a very high page rank on google.com.
With the above in mind, I really wonder whether the quality/idea of a web application really matters vs. the marketing effort put behind it. It seems that users will happily use an inferior product if it is marketed correctly and they can get to it easily.
So, the question is: why innovate within the web application arena, when the business that succeeds tends to be the one with the best marketing effort behind it. Am I wrong here? Have I made some unfounded assumptions?
You are mixing up a number of unrelated things and then jumping to a conclusion.
For example, page rank does not necessarily have anything to do with marketing a dating web site. It's a Google term that is meaninless to the people who visit that dating web site. It also does not necessarily have any relationship to the number of people visiting the web site.
To market a dating web site you need (in the order of importance)
So, as Jeff has already pointed out, the most important part of a dating web site is the people using it. This implies you can not have a successful dating web site unless you get a fair number of people to join it. So dating is about people, not code. The code just facilitates meeting people.
The code is not unimportant, however. Given two equally popular dating sites, the one with the code that makes the user's experience the easiest, or best, should win.
So for this particular product, marketing is the most important part of the product. If you can't attract people you can't run a dating web site. Contrast that to creating a niche product web site. For some very specialized and expensive sofwtare you can put almost no effort into markjeting. With the right product, your customers will find you, not the other way around. Or you can run ads for very select keywords and have all the traffic you need.
In my marketing presentations, I've always had the following three slides:
So I wouldn't argue that marketing is any more or less important than innovation. However, I can think of more examples where great marketing without great innovation was successful than the converse. If you have both then you're unstoppable.
The number of quality users for a dating site is part of the application quality. Speed and an intuitive interface are great, but many people (especially early adopters) will be willing to look past it if it works well enough (You have indicated that may be the case here.).
It's not advisable to wait until you have a such a superior product that you miss out on market share especially when the quality of the product is mostly determined by the size and importance of the use base. The feedback you get from real users will enhance the development.
FaceBook would be useless to me personally if none of my real friends and family didn't use it or couldn't be convinced to use it. That's easier to do when they've heard about it. Obvioulsy if it crashed every 5 minutes no amount of marketing would help.