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The value of story? About 2,776%


We’re always talking about how important a story is in marketing — but now someone has finally proven it with an ingenious experiment.

As summarised in a recent DoubleThink post, the experiment (by New York Times columnist Rob Walker) is called Significant Objects and the idea is really simple:

  • Buy cheap things on eBay
  • Give each one to a writer and ask them to tell a story about it
  • Put each item back on eBay with the story attached
  • Analyze the data

So, what’s a story worth? Quite a lot as it happens. The first 100 objects sold were bought for $120 and sold for $3,612 — a markup of 2,776%. The video of Rob Walker presenting the experiment at the PSFK conference is here.

And take a few minutes to browse around DoubleThink, an excellent blog on ‘Insight, Analytics and new Marketing’  by Dimitri Maex and Colin Mitchell, top strategists at Ogilvy.

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4 Responses to “The value of story? About 2,776%”

  1. Robert Levers

    Loved the conclusion reached, noted on the DoubleThink site you linked to: “the object was merely the vehicle for the story.” Isn’t that what branding has always been about?

  2. Doug Kessler

    Me too. So ‘Delta Force Kill VI’ isn’t a Steven Segal vehicle. Steven Segal is a ‘Delta Force Kill VI’ vehicle.

  3. Andrew Bruce Smith

    Great experiment – of course, I presume his friends and writers, etc produced their stories for free as part of the experiment.
    Would be interesting to know which stories resulted in the highest sale price increase – and how much the writer would have charged for their work if it had to be paid for. You’d then get a measure of true impact on net profit. Still, would be great it you could charge for content/story creation based upon a track record of proven impact on net income ;-)

  4. Doug Kessler

    All good points Andrew.
    You can access the data on the Significant Objects site.
    I don’t think they factored in story-creation costs.

    I’d love to see the equivalent experiment but instead of adding a story related to the object, just add a really compelling description of the object. Then we’d see the value of words, removing the celebrity writer and novelty factors.

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