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project smile feature: Motive Quest CMO Tom O'Brien


Project smileSocial media marketing starts with listening.  But how do you listen?

Project Smile is committed to bringing a broad perspective of the social media intelligence space, featuring both the heavy hitters and the innovative up and comers.

This is the second, of what will be a continuing series, profiling some of the leading players and solutions providers in this white hot industry.  In case you missed last week's interview with TNS Cymfony CMO Jim Nail, you can check it out here.

Profile - Motive Quest

Tom OBrien Who is Motive Quest?  What makes Motive Quest unique?  Where does Motive Quest see the future of social media intel? 

The insightful Tom O'Brien, CMO of MotiveQuest, has agreed to sit down for some Q&A.

Please feel free to post questions, follow up and suggestions to both Tom and myself (Jon) in the comments below.

140 Character Elevator Pitch

Online Anthropology with strategists & software to reveal motivations & drivers, competitive dynamics, brand advocacy & emerging trends.


Jon: What led you to launch your company?  Give us a brief history of who you are.

Tom: MQ has been in business since 2003.  Our motto “fearlessly seeking the reasons why” may seem a bit obscure, but the core of our work is to use the data (online conversations between millions of people) to help answer our client questions about branding, communication, advocacy, campaign effectiveness, etc.  We are examining the data with a variety of sophisticated tools and techniques to determine why people do what they do and help our clients use this information to their advantage.

Doing That Thing They Do

Jon: How would you describe your core capability? 

Tom: Our core capability is analysis of human motivations and drivers across brands, markets, constituencies to help our clients solve their business problems.  We provide our clients with ideas, insight and recommendations they can act on.

Taking the Road Less Traveled

Jon: What key differentiators does your company offer? 


  • First, unlike most in this category, MotiveQuest is not a software or technology company.  We are primarily a marketing strategy firm using online anthropology as our primary tool for uncovering hidden human motivations, drivers and competitive dynamics.  
  • Second, we have developed social media metrics that measure brand advocacy and have been show to be a leading indicator of sales.  This is critical for proving the ROI of social media analysis.

Success Stories

MQ Jon: What would you say has been your most successful engagement to date?  What made it successful?

Tom: The work we did with Butler Shine Stern & Partners and Mini was groundbreaking.  We did the analysis work to help BSSP understand what Mini owners are most passionate about, and then measured the results of their campaign on brand advocacy for Mini.  Brand advocacy (measured with MQ’s proprietary Online Promoter ScoreTM) turned out to be a leading indicator of sales.  See case study here:  MotiveQuest Advocacy for Mini

Looking Forward

Jon: What are the greatest challenges facing the social intelligence industry? 

Tom: I think the greatest challenges are proving the value of our measures and becoming an accepted means of consumer research.

Jon: How do you see social media/marketing evolving over the next 3 years?

Tom: I believe that the (vendor) market will consolidate somewhat with firms falling into three buckets – dashboard providers, research data providers and research insight/strategy providers.  I think the largest marketers are really struggling to figure out how to spend money on digital media because it is hard.  Providers that can help marketers do this in an intelligent, measurable way will win.

Choosing The Right Solution For You

Jon: What role should experience play in choosing a social media intelligence solutions provider?

Tom: This is a complex business and experience matters.  Take a look at the Visa Olympic buzz kerfuffle to get a flavor of what happens when you don’t get things right.  BTW, we were hired by Visa to look into this matter and we found something quite different from what Cymfony found. (Please don’t share with Jim Nail!)

Additional Info


Presences Across Social Media: Slideshare,, YouTube Channel, AdAge Articles, A Human Voice, Twitter

For More Info Contact: Tom O’Brien,, 847.905.6118, Twitter: @tomob,

Other Fun Stuff

Tom: MotiveQuest has been rated as one of the top 3 online research companies by Forrester - and they called us the most service and strategy focused - which got it just right.

Charts/Food for Thought


Common interest 

Passion Peaks

Passion peaks 

Social Computing Landscape

Social computing landscape 

Cool is... (defining cool in cellphone category)

Cool swarm