priusLast week The Semantic Web Blog reported on hoped-for improvements in the sentiment and text analytics space, a topic of discussion at this month’s Sentiment Analytics Symposium, including making the tools and data more accessible to business users – at least to those working outside of the market research sector. Within that space, experts continue to bring value.

Speakers at the event provided examples of how expertise at social analytics matters in the marketing realm, including David Rabjohns, CEO of MotiveQuest, which offers an online anthropology approach to helping brands identify the social “tribes” who may be targets for their products or services, given an understanding of what it is those tribes are most passionate about and a way that the brand can connect with those passions.

Take the case of the company’s work with Toyota on its Prius hybrid car: Rabjohns said that MotiveQuest’s online social research for the company revealed that Toyota would be mistaken to think it was selling a car and talking to users about saving money on gas.

The social action around Prius was happening in the environmental forums, and it would be in Toyota’s best interest to tap into and become a symbol of a movement that already exists. “Start with their needs and motivations vs, what you think your car is about,” was the advice Rabjohns gave. That includes welcoming competition in the hybrid category from other carmakers under the banner of embracing everyone who wants to save the planet, and bringing environmental leaders in to consult with about what makes the car important to the green community and what to develop in the future to respond to its other needs.

“It’s less about what marketers are pushing out to the marketplace and more about what people share with each other, so it’s more important to work out what matters to people,” he said, and lasso that back to what you do in a meaningful way. To do that requires going beyond sentiment – likes, dislikes, and basic feelings, he said. MotiveQuest’s social analytics technology helps companies understand those motivations by looking at the different ways people converse with each other online and express their needs – grouped according to 12 categories, from the need to feel creative to the need to feel rebellious.

Its algorithms map those expressions back to different and category-specific linguistic characteristics to better understand the dominant motivations in an area. In a corpus of data of nearly 3 million individuals, he said, about 55 percent of their conversations expressed some sort of human need.

For example, for sports apparel brands, its technology identified dominant motivations as feeling accomplished, powerful, sexy, or interests in improving techniques. “But what’s really interesting is that when you go and look at brands and where they live, those succeeding in their categories tend to index linguistically against those motivational areas,” he said.

As an example, Nike is much more associated with people’s need to feel successful than any other brand in the category, while UnderArmor has chosen not to compete with that message but to hone in on people’s needs to feel powerful. “They are connecting with a different set of motivations, and you can map this out across many different categories,” he said. They’re connecting, too, with archetypes. “What brands do successfully is to live in characteristic areas,” he said, as playing to these archetypes as well as motivations “gives an immediate way to connect with people and with their motivations.”