Aspirational Behavior

Watching a brand struggle to impose its "relevance" on a community of social media users is often akin to listening to a comic trying to explain his or her joke to an audience that doesn't (or doesn't want) to get it. Instead of organic connection and rapport, there's only a strange disconnect. Truly leveraging the social and communicational power of social media, Jordan English Gross, COO of Saber Seven and co-founder of, explains below, is less about brands targeting social communities to talk about themselves, and more about learning how consumers pursue their own dreams and aspirations online, and what role brands can play in helping them achieve them.


Behavioral Insider: You've declared one of the goals of your soon-to-launch site as creating a new online ad model to connect consumers and brands via dreams and behavior. Could you elaborate on that?

Jordan English Gross: The way we describe Dorthy is as a destination site specifically geared to helping people achieve their dreams, whatever they are, and to be guided by peers who share their dream on how to accomplish that. It's the place to 'do dreams.' The dream can be to become a better father or to buy a new car. Saber Seven sets up the tools and enables individuals to connect to and collaborate with others with similar interests and goals, focusing all the relevant resources available on the Web to the task. Dorthy began as an application in beta on Facebook and very quickly gained a devoted following. It has now evolved as a standalone entity for launch in 1Q09.



BI: How do dreams become expressed in behaviors?

Gross: The user identifies and defines their own dream and in doing that creates their own 'dream page.' As soon as they do that they are connected to resources, including other individuals who have pursued and/or are pursuing similar goals. As a user gets involved in pursuing their dream they are continually referred by the system to filtered information relating to their dream. They learn about what resources other users are finding worthwhile and get recommendations. They are also connected to the dream pages of other individuals in their dream channel and can see what kinds of progress they are making. If they see content of interest on someone's dream page they can download it to their own page with a simple click.

To illustrate, we can use the example of a character named Jake, who has three dreams. One is to run a marathon, another to snowboard, still another to get a home theater. Let's just focus on the marathon dream. If you think about how he'd go about pursuing research into that dream currently he'd probably start by going to Google and getting information about running, which he'll need to spend a lot of time sifting through for relevancy. Then he may go to Amazon and buy a book on marathon running, and perhaps go to Runner's World and ESPN.

It's all very time-consuming. With Google search, for instance, we know that about 40% of 'passion searches' are repeated every week. From a user perspective Dorthy is designed to radically improve that process. What we call 'Reverse the Search' connects him to the most relevant content based on his specific goals and where he is in achieving them.

BI: How do you differentiate this from social networks?

Gross: Social networks are often described as having user-generated content. What Dorthy provides is user-enhanced content. The content is not only shared but, as it is re-distributed, value is constantly being added. The user not only sees the content but learns how other users are employing that content to further their goals.

BI: How might behaviorally targeted advertising play a role in this space?

Gross: For advertisers, what emerges are user-initiated vertical content channels based not on demographics but, far more powerfully, on psychographics, on very specific passions and lifestyle interests that large communities of people are engaged in. The opportunity for brands is to participate actively and constructively in helping provide these communities with the kind of information and resources that can let them realize their stated goals.

This is not a venue for conventional banner ads. It is conceived as a space for viral content and very targeted sponsorship of particular channels. The challenge for brands will be to learn how to let users in particular dream communities refine, refer and redistribute their information, to make it truly part of the community resource pool.

Marketers have looked at social networks for years and seen all this traffic and activity and looked for ways to make their message fit in. But it never quite made sense. I saw this while working on the agency side and as a user of these networks. People would think 'Why does Jolly Green Giant have a MySpace page?' It never really made sense, primarily because the content was extraneous.

What we're offering to brands is not social media as they've seen it on social networks, but social power. That means the opportunity to integrate content that people need from the ground up.

BI: What kinds of behavioral data will be generated and how will it be leveraged?

Gross: There's an enormous amount of data marketers can gain because they are able to see exactly how their branded content is actually being 'consumed' in a highly engaged context. They can literally identify how the information is being used and distributed throughout the community, who's converting on the product, who's recommending it, and what people think of it. They can associate all that behavioral data with extremely well defined and rich lifestyle segments. They can also associate themselves in a creative and vital way with the true passions and dreams of their customers.

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