Case Study: how I helped DreamsCloud dominate the dream world
It’s rare that I get permission to share the work I do and the ROI Octalysis helps to generate with clients, so when I get the opportunity to share the results of my work, I quickly jump on it.
These days I’ve been working with all sort of companies, from Fortune 500’s to universities to governments. However, some of my favorite work still lies in my roots – the Startup World.
Startups are fun to work with because, almost by definition, they are doing things that have never been done before. They don’t latch onto the status quo because they know the status quo is death, and they do everything possible to innovate and turn the needle from certain death to world-changing glory. Whereas large companies often make a handful of big experiments a year, startups often make company-altering experiments multiple times a week.
One such startup is DreamsCloud. DreamsCloud is a pioneering startup in getting people to input and share their dreams every morning when they wake up. After people share their dreams, professional dream reflectors and dream enthusiasts alike can share their wisdom and insights on what the dreams mean. You may think this is an odd space to be in, but every month there are more than 90 million people online searching what their dreams mean. That’s almost a third of the US population searching for dream meanings on a monthly basis!
The Behavioral Challenge
The challenge for the company is that, dreams must be recorded immediately after a person wakes up, because after a minute or two, the person will likely forget their dream. However, when most people wake up in the morning, recording their dreams is not likely the activity they are most concerned about. They are brushing their teeth, preparing for breakfast, and getting ready for work/school.
I was brought in to help them improve the Desired Behavior of doing the activity loop of recording their dreams, as well as registering on the site, reading about other dreams, and creating a social community.
The Octalysis Difference
When I first started contributing, the company didn’t have much traction. They were exploring pioneers in uncharted territories, and while having solid technology, it is tremendously difficult for most people to alter behavior. They were trying many ideas through different products, but none had caught on greatly.
As you can see from the monthly traffic view, from mid 2014 to mid 2015 things were relatively stagnant. They had about 6,000-7,000 visitors a month, which is by all means not bad, but not enough to make them successful.
However, after working with the team of incredibly smart and hard working people (as well as other experts and agencies), after 2015 they saw a massive breakthrough and grew tremendously into a dominating position. They went from mere thousands of unique visitors a month to over a million per month.
As you can see, by July 2016, they had around 2 Million visitors a month, increasing their traction metrics by 500X!
And that’s not all of it. Their conversion rates from visitor to registered user were in the double digits, and more impressively, 60% of newly registered users recorded a dream within 12 hours!
I would again like to repeat that I in no way claim that I was the ONE who made all this happen, as it was a combination of great team effort. But I can say with certainty that I made a tangible difference in helping them get where they are today.
In this case study, I can share everything that is easily observed by the public, but I won’t go into the details of many “subtle” or awesome future things they will be doing since it is important that DreamsCloud maintains that competitive edge.
Keep in mind that DreamsCloud is still in early MVP stage, and there are still many exciting (and more gameful things) they will be doing in the future. This is just step one, so if you see bugs or things you don’t like, keep in mind it will get 100 times better in the future too.
Hocus Focus is the Magic Trick
The first advice I gave them was to focus on making ONE product extremely good, instead of pushing many products at the same time. Startups are passionate and ambitious, so they wanted to jump on every possible idea and opportunity. The company was pushing hard on their DreamsCloud.com portal, the DreamsCloud App, other iOS and Android apps called Dreamsphere (which is still an exciting vision on the horizon), and they were thinking about incorporating new technologies like wearables into their product offering (unfortunately I have to be vague here).
I often tell my clients: “It is better to be awesome in a few places than it is to suck everywhere.” Usually when a startup wants to do 5 things, they will find that for every one of those things, there are 5-10 companies that have ten times more money doing just that one thing. There is no way they can differentiate and win.
I recommended to focus on their core products first, so the engineering team does not need to run from one feature in one product to another feature in another product. After hammering on that nail a few times, they did a tremendous job focusing.
Applying the 8 Core Drives of Gamification
The next step is to think about incorporating the 8 Core Drives of my Gamification Framework “Octalysis” into the Experience.
As a quick refresher, the 8 Core Drives are what drives every single one of our behaviors in our lives. If none of the 8 Core Drives are there, there won’t be any motivation, and no behavior happens. Let’s see how DreamsCloud can incorporate these 8 Core Drives into their product through a “Level I Octalyis analysis”:
Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling
The key about bringing Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling into the Dreamscloud experience is communicating that Dreams Matter. Most people don’t think dreams are significant enough and may even dismiss a whole company that is based on it.
However, there are many examples of how understanding dreams greatly improved the lives of many people. Some of the best ideas in history, such as Google’s Page Rank and Einstein’s Relativity Theory was revealed in their dreams. Also, did you know a woman once learned that she was pregnant through her dreams, or a man was warned of his early stage cancer through his dream?
Our subconscious brain is extremely powerful and actually can process way more information and emotions than our conscious brain can comprehend. When clients ask me a question, and I answer, “Well, there are three points to this,” I don’t first think through all those three points in my head before saying it. My subconscious brain already knew in an instant that there were three points and exactly what they were, my conscious brain had to slowly process them as I said them one at a time.
By letting users know that dreams can allow us to connect into our inner self, or come up with the next billion dollar idea, people can then be tied more into that Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling. Some even tie it into spirituality (there are many stories where God or spirits communicate through dreams etc.), but that may be alienating users who care about the science of dreams.
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment
The key about any new technology is that it needs to make users feel smart. Note: this is not the same as users thinking that the product is smart. The users need to feel smart themselves. Google+ is an example where you have great engineers building a very advanced product, but when people reach the site, they feel stupid and leave quickly.
That is why it’s important for DreamsCloud to guide users closer through a Step-By-Step Onboarding (Game Technique #6) process where they get acquainted with the activity loop before letting users go. Users also need to feel that everything they are doing is building towards something, whether it is dreams recorded, self understanding, or friends made.
Also, you should never let users accidentally stumble upon a bad experience. Everything the user can possibly do at the beginning should give them a good experience, so if you know in some scenarios the user would have an anti-climatical (not even bad, but uneventful) experience, remove the users ability to stumble upon that bad experience. Guide them to the First Major Win-State as soon as possible.
Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
Dream recording is a creative process. Sometimes people don’t remember their dreams completely, or choose to record certain aspects of it. Also, some people prefer to do it in a light-hearted humorous way, while others like to talk about dreams in a solemn serious tone.
In this creative process, I advised DreamsCloud on allowing users to share their emotions easily and playfully in the product, so that every time they share it becomes a delightful experience that look forward to repeating.
Also, reflecting on other peoples’ dreams is a fun and creative process too. It not only provides “feedback” to the creativity of the dreamer, but by analyzing what others’ dreams could mean, it becomes a fun detective game of obtaining clues and attempting to find the truth through questions like, “Hmm, have you been under stressful circumstances lately, especially related to women you admire?”
Since Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is at the top right of the Octalysis Framework, it is a White Hat and Right Brain (symbolically representing the emotional brain) Intrinsic Core Drive. This means that it generates the longest lasting “Evergreen Mechanics” where users can come back and enjoy the experience for years to come.
Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession
Dreams are personal, and users feel a tremendous amount of ownership towards their own dreams. They want to understand their dreams, and they want to stash it away at a safe place where they can review later.
DreamsCloud allows these precious dreams, which are often escaping your memory like falling stars, to be retained and kept. More importantly, it allows people to UNDERSTAND the value of what they already own.
We know in the Alfred Effect (Game Technique #83) that if a system constantly learns about you, you feel more attached to it and prefer to stay loyal even if another new technology was supposedly more advanced. The DreamsCloud engine is constantly learning about you through the dreams you record, and gives users intelligent “Mind Metrics” to help them understand their inner selves.
In addition, the system helps users keep track of their dreams better by tracking Dream Symbols and location so users can easily go back to old dreams from a year ago relating to a certain theme.
Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness
For most web platforms to succeed, it needs to be social. Unfortunately, dreams are quite personal and lots of people don’t want their dreams to be known by other friends in their circles. DreamsCloud respects that privacy and allows users to post anonymously too, so they mostly focus on getting users on the platform to socialize with each other.
However, through an interesting technology, it is still possible to share socially about DreamsCloud. DreamsCloud has a unique technology called Dreamscape, which is a computer generated image based on the dream people record. Usually the image is way too abstract to comprehend, but the benefit of that is it makes things less personal.
Users can share the Dreamscape on their social networks and ask their friends to guess what they dreamed of. Since no one will truly know the right answer, it is a safe and fun way to build conversation while promoting the DreamsCloud brand.
Of course, there are other ways in the platform to build more collaboration and an ecosystem of gratitude, but I’ll reserve that as future content to Octalysis Prime members, which is launching this year.
Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience
There are many interesting Scarcity Design principles that can be implemented into DreamsCloud, which would undoubtedly make it an even more viral experience. However, we know that Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience is at the left bottom of the Octalysis Framework, which means it is Black Hat and Left Brain (symbolically representing our logical brain) Extrinsic Core Drive. This means that even though it could drive obsessive behavior, users won’t necessarily feel good about it since they feel out of control.
The company is mostly focused on creating a great White Hat experience for their users, hence does not deploy many Core Drive 6 mechanisms besides the rare Professional Dream Reflections that you could earn by contributing to the platform.
However, dreams are inherently scarce. You don’t control how many dreams you will have, when you will have them, and if you don’t record them quickly, they disappear. This creates a Time-Based Scarcity Trigger through Appointment Dynamics (Game Technique #21) which urgently reminds users to record their dreams the moment they wake up.
Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity
Our brain craves unpredictable results. That’s why the gambling and soap opera series thrive in a time when people are busier than ever before to spend time on the “important things in life.” It is important for DreamsCloud to create an experience where every time users go onto the platform, they encounter an unexpected delightful experience through Easter Egg (Game Technique #30) and Mystery Box (Game Technique #72) designs.
When people go on the site, they want to see dreams that are fascinating and provokes curiosity. They want to see interesting comments and see what dream reflectors are saying. If they go on the site, but they don’t see anything new or surprising, then the site has let the users accidentally stumbled upon a bad experience. Don’t ever let users accidentally stumble upon a bad experience.
To make company back multiple times a day a reoccuring habit, the user needs to constantly be checking back to see if anyone has analyzed their own dreams, or if there are new dreams that are amazingly fun and mind-blowing.
Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance
Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance is also a pure Black Hat Core Drive, and social community companies tend to not use it a lot. However, there are elements such as the FOMO Punch (Game Technique #84), which stands for “Fear-Of-Missing-Out Punch” where the user becomes afraid of losing great insights from their dreams (remember every night your dreams could be telling you the next billion-dollar idea?), and so they feel compelled to jump on this opportunity to not miss out the greatness (or significance when it comes to being pregnant or having cancer) that is to be.
Also, there is a Sunk Cost Prison (Game Technique #50) system, where if a user has been recording all their dreams on the site over a few years, they are unlikely to quit and switch to other platforms because all this dream data, analytics, understanding, social connection are all there on the platform. Of course, they can copy and paste all their posts elsewhere, and Dreamscloud certainly wouldn’t mind people exporting their own dream data (given enough engineering resources to push that out), but it just becomes a hassle in the brain (and Cognitive Dissonance) where people are not likely to switch due to Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance.
DreamsCloud: A Great Investment
Again, there are WAY more details and subtle components that made DreamsCloud more successful by the day, but the above is a high level overview of how they gradually improved and an example of how you can utilize Octalysis to improve your own products. To learn more about how to use Octalysis and Behavioral Design to transform your life and products, you could either sign up to my quarterly workshops or wait for the long-anticipated Octalysis Prime that is launching in 2016 (or just keep reading this blog through the mailing list).
On the other hand, with this new-found success, DreamsCloud is currently raising a pre-Series A Round of $2.5 Million to grow their success fifty-times over. Since they already know what to do to create a compelling experience and drive behavior, now they just need the fire power to execute on all the things they already know they should do.
Not surprisingly, as of now they have already raised $800,000 of their $2.5 Million round. Another client of mine in Australia took the MVP we designed for them and showed it to investors, and they instantly raised close to $1.5 Million within 2 weeks.
I’m also giving the disclaimer (but it’s more of an endorsement) that I saw so much potential in DreamsCloud’s success, that I later agreed to take my fees in the form equity, so I am a very minor shareholder. LOTS of startup companies pitch me their equity, and I almost always say no since it is messy and most of it will become zero, but for a selected few companies such as DreamsCloud, I excitedly agreed.
I hope this case study piece was helpful to you in many ways. If you are interested in also investing in DreamsCloud (and want a respected referral), want to learn about how I can help you or the upcoming Octalysis Prime, please leave a message in the blue contact form below.
The Revolution is coming… Don’t just be an observer that’s left behind.
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