Create something aspirational

Give your users something to aspire to. Benign envy is a powerful motivator.


  • Lifestyle magazines aren’t aimed at who they say they are – Cosmo is aimed at 17-year-olds, Just 17 is aimed at 13-year-olds who aspire to be as grown-up as 17-year-olds.
  • Given that people will emulate their idols, there is obviously a place for idols to endorse products online in more creative ways that just appearing in advertisements. Leveraging aspiration online has even extended to twitter. Now, companies can pay celebrities to tweet 140 characters about their brand or latest campaign. has a sliding payment scale based on the popularity of the celebrity. Jamie Oliver (celebrity chef) costs $3,250 per tweet, Khloe Kardashian (reality TV star) is $9,100, and Bob Vila (House repair TV host) is a bargain at just $910. If you have to ask how much Paris Hilton costs, you can’t afford her.


Aspiration – a form of benign envy – encourages people to emulate their idols and fuels ambition. Creating desirability through association with a famous person (desirability through identity) is the basis of celebrity endorsements and the reason why movie stars don’t pay for the dresses they wear on the red carpet at the Oscars award ceremony.
Fashion from Paris catwalks and the red carpet at the Oscars makes its way into high street stores and big box retailers very quickly, because wearing something visibly similar to the haute couture clothes is aspirational.

How to use this pattern

  • Show your product in settings that would be aspirational for your target audience. This may include showing it being used by aspirational individuals or to achieve end results that your audience aspire to.
  • Provide a comparison point – what does your product provide “more” of for customers – will users be richer, more popular, smarter, or all three?
  • Be careful of leveraging scorn. Being envious gives people feelings of guilt, but being scornful often leads to dehumanizing of the scorned group, which can have dangerous repercussions.
  • Consider as a secondary audience any group who is one or more notches lower on the scale (age, income, leisure time, etc.) than your current target audience. Develop a product offering for that group which helps them meet their aspirational goals. If you don’t, someone else will.