Dating Data: The Heart Of Our Desire

If you really want to know how people act and what they want, just watch them romance one another, says Mary Spio, director of media services, Next Galaxy Media. Her company maintains a 300,000-member database of active singles searching for mates via One2One magazine. Looking for love online leaves a dense trail of desires and affinities that Next Galaxy has used to find contestants for ABC's "The Bachelor" reality show and to identify sponsors for the new Mary J. Blige tour. Spio started as an engineer who helped an online dating service drill its own user profiles to market more effectively to a broader audience. Now she uses online dating preferences and behaviors along with in-venue observational techniques to design custom magazines for MusicLand and TV programming that run in Margaritaville restaurants.

Behavioral Insider: Why is the dating genre especially good for behavioral tracking?

Spio: I stayed in the dating industry because I found people were giving you every attribute imaginable about themselves--very specific behaviors, versus most marketing case studies where you have to beg and pay people for them to tell you what their likes and dislikes are. And a lot of the time those are not very natural, because they are telling you what they think you want to hear. But in a dating construct, they actually give you truthful information about themselves--because if it's misleading, then they're not going to find the right person.



Behavioral Insider: What sort of affinities do you find in these databases?

Spio: There were a lot of very specific patterns. For instance, people who enjoyed adult contemporary music also had an affinity toward a variety of ethnic foods, Thai food, or certain types of sodas. So, then I knew that a person who has indicated this preference will more than likely like cola with a twist, because those types of drinks go better with some of these tastier spicy foods that people in certain categories had indicated.

Behavioral Insider: How does this knowledge translate into promotions for concerts and in-venue advertising?

Spio: One of the things we've done very closely is work with different artists. With an artist, the audience has very specific behaviors that are completely independent of their demographic. Right now, we're working with Mary J. Blige on her upcoming tour and talking to different sponsors, knowing that her audience tends to be achievers who are introspective. They also value, let's say, the little things in life.

Behavioral Insider: So you aren't just pulling information from profiles, but also observing online and offline behaviors?

Spio: Absolutely. Not only are we looking at the dating profile, but even at the tour itself. What kinds of cars are they pulling up in? We notice that it's not a coincidence that a lot of these people are pulling up in brand-new Mercedes versus BMWs. We know this audience prefers the peace-of-mind campaign from Mercedes over the adrenaline rush campaign you would see from BMW, so we know there are certain things that are communicating better to this audience. You can see that even in their style of dress. We've studied other concerts where you see a lot of the people who might be overweight, so that might match with Bally Total Fitness or Jenny Craig. And that is not based on just saying--these are kids showing up for a rock concert.

Behavioral Insider: What are some of the more interesting affinities you have found in analyzing the Blige audience?

Spio: A lot of people assume that because she is an R&B artist that her audience will be black women, but really it's women from all walks of life. They have a yearning for fulfilling relationships, so a lot of them are introspective. They are achievers, and people looking for values. They look for peace of mind. A lot of her music speaks to that. [We look for] products that speak to the comforts in life--that speak to putting a twist on something. For instance, something like mint water versus plain water: because it's refreshing and it's a little twist. They are upscale in their thinking, and aspire to the finer things in life--and that's why they would go to Madison Square Garden versus the club around the corner. They would be interested in life preparation, life insurance policies. A return to childhood joys. They like the finer things in life but not the ordinary--so Pepsi versus Coke. If it's chocolate. It's with a twist.

Behavioral Insider: How are these kinds of insights also informing your site advertising?

Spio: We've launched One2One magazine, which is targeted specifically to singles. When you look at our demographic breakdown, we have a majority that are highly educated, and in professional positions, a lot of entrepreneurs who don't have time for dating. So One2One is a resource guide. These are the movies coming out that would be of interest. Here are the cars that are out there of interest to you as a single person. And knowing that these types of people have safety as the primary factor in their minds, then I would say--here is a car with OnStar. If I am married and my car breaks down, I can pick up the phone and call my spouse. But if I'm a single woman and safety is number one in my mind, then I will provide them with cars that have OnStar.

Behavioral Insider: How does this sort of data drilling differ from the usual audience?

Spio: It doesn't matter what their demographic is. What we care about is their psychographic. These are singles with the highest level of disposable income and looking for activities and things to buy, but it has to be specific to what they are looking for. So we provide them with the resource. It makes our job easier to find marketers out there with products that fit their needs. So it is double-pronged--one to server our customers and to serve the marketers. It's almost like word of mouth. You like sneakers--well, Nike has new footwear that fits your particular style rather than someone who says they like dance music. I won't present that to them, because that means I am not listening. When you market based on behavioral patterns and based on psychographics, really you are offering a service--you become a friend to that person versus that intrusive person who comes in yelling at them 'buy my stuff,' with total disregard for what it is they are telling you they want. And that's the difference.

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