Blue Bell-based BehaviorMatrix recieves patent for advanced social media analytics methodology; Used in Pharma and politics

Tom Paine

 Subscribe in a reader
Subscribe to Philadelphia Tech News by Email

Blue Bell-based BehaviorMatrix announced in February it was granted what it called a "foundational" patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent number 8,639,702, covers a method for detecting and measuring emotional signals within digital content. The company said in a statement that the patent, in combination with other pending BehaviorMatrix patents, "provides the basics of emotional analytics. Emotion is based on perception – and perception is based on exteroceptive stimuli – what is seen, touched, tasted, heard and smelled."

BehaviorMatrix says it uses computational linguistics, big data algorithms, signal processing statistics, machine learning and quantum information theory, along with its social crowd science to capture spontaneous expression in digital communications, mostly from social media content.

"This technology gives advertising and CRM the science to measure and quantify emotional reactions and behavioral responses, which will lead to targeted, and more importantly, meaningful digital advertising and marketing,” the company says.

The BehaviorMatrix model was inspired by the psychoevolutionary theories of noted late psychologist Robert Plutchik, who concluded there were eight primary emotions – anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust. The patented model follows Plutchik’s description of the human emotional landscape and refines it to make it actionable with contextual linguistic scoring. BehaviorMatrix had the help of another expert in the field in developing its methodologies and algorithms, although in an interview with Philly Tech News BehaviorMatrix CEO William M. Thompson wouldn't identify who that was at this time, calling it confidential proprietary business information. The patent was awarded in the name of CTO Charles Davis.

BehaviorMatrix has focused primarily on two markets so far: Pharma and politics. My sense is its business mix is more heavily weighted to Pharma at this point, although political work may have brought it more attention.

In Pharma, there is a tremendous amount of deep, valuable condition-specific content on a multitude of websites and blogs where patients discuss treatments, and that content can be mined and analyzed on an aggregate basis.

A recent Wall Street Journal article describes how BehaviorMatrix analyzed millions of cancer blogs in order to understand how patients felt about certain cancer drugs. Any time one of the drugs was mentioned, BehaviorMatrix categorized the emotion expressed as one of fear, acceptance, grief, optimism or despair. Recommendations were made to tune sponsor messages to be responsive to an individual's current emotional status.

On the political side, BehaviorMatrix has had some high-profile clients, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, also a Republican, who made a comeback by defeating Charles Colbert's sister Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a special House election last year.

A New York Times article from last year associated BehaviorMatrix with a GOP game plan to sharpen its social media prowess heading towards the 2014 and 2016 elections, though in my interview with Thompson and CTO Davis they tended to downplay the GOP connections emphasized in the Times article. Both say they are independents who, while supporting certain principles, could easily see themselves helping some Democrats as well as Republicans, though to date BehaviorMatrix has only worked with GOP candidates, Thompson confirmed.

Mr. Davis, a Bay Area native, began developing his ideas in the late 1990s, while he was chief technology officer at digital agency Millward-Brown Interactive. While searching for funding he met Thompson, a Philly native and the former chairman and chief executive of Innovative Tech Systems of Warminster, a developer of facility management software that went public in the 90's and was acquired a few years later.

Mr. Thompson, who became an angel investor after the sale, invested in the concept and came out of retirement to run the company formed to develop it. According to a 2011 article in the Philadelphia Business Journal, Thompson and his brother, John Thompson (who cofounded Innovative Tech Systems), led an investment of several million dollars in PredictiveEdge, BehaviorMatrix's holding company. John Thompson is also involved in BehaviorMatrix operations. The company launched in 2008.

Some firms use the term "sentiment analytics" to describe their methodology, but BehaviorMatrix does not. "Sentiment analytics, in many cases utilizes a very rudimentary form of natural language processing or text analytics to summarize conversations into positive, negative and neutral categories. We are able to classify the full range of human emotion and uncover indicators that help us predict patterns of human behavior," the company said in response to my inquiry on the subject. BehaviorMatrix uses the term "emotional indexing" to describe what it does.

BehaviorMatrix employs about 40 in Blue Bell, including a strong analytics team. Thompson says its next target market may be consumer products, but that there is enough potential in the Pharma market to keep it busy for a while.