Marketers are agog over stories. For good reason. Your stories lift a prospect out of her ordinary world … and then takes her on a journey that ultimately leads to a vision of herself as a better version of herself.
In 1984, Apple brought it’s own story to the market, one in which agile, nonconformists can break the mold … liberated by a busty Norwegian body builder wielding a sledge hammer … I am, of course, talking about the 1984 inspired “Think Different” campaign.
But do stories really enhance a company’s products? Its reputation? Is there evidence? I think we have some evidence here. And in this episode is a strange bit of evidence.
In this 11-minute show you’ll discover:
- A quasi-anthropological eBay project based upon the hunch that “stories can add measurable value to near-worthless trinkets”
- The story that sold a one dollar UTAH snow globe for $59.00
- The mistake writers make with statistics
Listen to Rough Draft below ...
The Show Notes
- Significant Objects Project
- UTAH Snow Globe
- Birthday Candles
- Seahorse Lighter
- Miniature Pitchfork
- Flannel Ball
Proof That Stories Can Increase the Value of Even ‘Worthless’ Items
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Demian Farnworth: Howdy, and welcome back to another episode of Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I am Demian Farnworth, your host, your muse, your digital recluse, and the Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.
And thank you for sharing the next few minutes of your life with me.
Marketers are agog over stories. For good reason. Your stories lift a prospect out of his ordinary world … and then takes him on a journey that ultimately leads to a vision of himself as a better version of himself.
And one way to think about this process is episodic education. We are taking a playbook out of cable television, motion pictures, commercials, radio, and animation.
Long ago LL Bean was doing this with their customer testimonials in their catalogs. They would turn those little letters of praise into mini stories.
Customer: “I just wanted to write to tell you that when I was abducted by aliens while trout fishing the other day THANK GOD I was wearing my seventeen year old pair of waterfowl PRO waders because they not only prohibited those little guys from performing some routine probing and allowed me to kick my way out of that ship!”
And it was full of such gems.
In 1984, Apple brought it’s own story to the market, one in which agile, nonconformists can break the mould … liberated by a busty Norwegian body builder wielding a sledge hammer … I’m of course talking about the 1984 inspired Think Different campaign.
But do stories really enhance a company’s products? Its reputation? Is there evidence? I think we have some evidence here. And this is a strange bit of evidence.
A Quasi-Anthropological eBay Project Based Upon the Hunch that “Stories Can Add Measureable Value to Near-Worthless Trinkets”
Take quasi-anthropological Significant Objects project. It started with the hunch that “stories can add measurable value to near-worthless trinkets.”
Journalist Rob Walker and writer Josh Glenn bought cheap trinkets at thrift stores and garage sales, paired each object with a writer (such as Jonathan Letham or Nicholson Baker), who then wrote a fictional story behind that object.
A photo of the trinket and the story were then published on eBay. Here’s how some of those items fared.
- Package of generic birthday candles, an item that was donated, sold for $21.50
- Sea horse lighter, originally bought for $1, sold for … $36
- Miniature pitchfork, originally bought for 69 cents, sold for $19.50
- Flannel ball — a ball of flannel, bought for $1.50, sold for $51.00
The Story that Sold a One Dollar UTAH Snow Globe for $59.00
These stories are all over the map. Here’s a flavor:
Utah Snow Globe, UTAH printed on the base and a badly printed image of the Delicate Arch in Utah, bought for 99 cents, ultimately sold for … wait … for $59.00
Written by Blake Butler.
My granddad’s granddad had a box under his bed. If you got to open the box (you had to beg) you would find a little door. The little door had a combination on it that you had to know to get inside the second box, which I did. I had the combination tattooed on my spinemeat when I was four while on a trip to see the circus. The tattoo was free. My granddad’s granddad was very powerful and rich.
With granddad’s granddad in the bed asleep above me, I opened up the box inside the box. My knees were bloody from the begging. I could see way down into the box. There was a black pattern, then a ladder. I fell forward and grabbed ahold. The inside of the box smelled like the backyard where the money got made from skin. I began to climb along the ladder, getting older every rung. I was a very special boy.
The room under my granddad’s granddad’s room was octagon-shaped. As I climbed into the room, the mouth to it closed. The walls along the room were lined with little cubbies. There were more cubbies than I have days I’ve lived, or hairs that I have grown, which is also more than how many mouths I’d put my mouth against if I lived to be very, very old.
In each of the cubbies there was a little globe. Each globe held another little thing, each named with a label for what the thing was. There was a cubby with a globe containing FIRST EVER REDWOOD TREE. One containing PERRY MASON. One containing PEAS. The globe containing JOYOUS LONGING held a bright pink liquid smoke. PERRY MASON looked pissed off.
The globe containing UTAH made a burning sound against my head, and there were all these people chanting, and my face got all sandy and all wet. I shook it and it made my blood tingle and some coins appeared in my hands. I had so many gold coins I could live forever. Some of the coins were chocolate, which was food.
The ladder would not come back down. I could find no door in all the cubbies. No doorbell or key or gun.
In one cubby I could see out of the room beneath granddad’s granddad’s room. I could see back into the house where I’d grown up. In a little mirror on the counter across from where I was I could see back onto the label underneath the cubby in the house that held the globe I was inside now: MY GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDSON.
Nobody in their right mind would pay more than a dollar for these items.
So why were people bidding these insignificant objects up on eBay? Especially since there is no shortage of both meaningless and worthless things to buy on eBay in the first place?
Stories. Reminds me of the fact that our consciences are moved by the story of one African orphan rather than the staggering statistics that get thrown around.
So keep that in mind next time you sit down to write … stories get and keep people’s attention.
Until next time. Take care.