What junk and a story can teach you about branding

In 2009, Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker ran an experiment called the Significant Objects Project. They purchased 100 items from thrift stores totaling $128.74. That meant each object cost on average $1.28.

Joshua and Rob wanted to test their theory that a story could increase the value of an item. A writer was paired with each item who created a fictional story about that item.

Then each item and its story was listed on eBay. Each item’s description noted that the story about it was fictional. But that didn’t matter. The $128.74 worth of thrift store junk sold for a total of $3612.51. On average each little item sold with its “fictional” story for $36.12.

“Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional values that their effect on any given objects subjective value can actually be measured objectively.” – Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker

This experiment highlights the value of using a story to increase the value of what you offer. Why does the story increase value? Because it offers something people can connect with. Not everyone will connect with your story but the right people will connect with your story.

So what is a brand story?

A brand story is the essence of everything about your business. It’s a reflection of the colors, design, pictures, words, staff you hire, website, and physical location. It’s not just what you tell people. It’s what people believe about you. It’s how they feel about you.

Stories create value. People don’t just shop with their head–the rational side. They shop with their hearts. People will pay more when it means something to them.

If you’re not intentionally creating a brand story, your business is just another commodity. Just another $1.28 trinket.

Your brand story isn’t just about the need to stand out from the crowd. It’s also about a story that people can connect with and care about. Your story can take a commodity and increase its value just as $1.28 items became worth more when connected with a story.

Your brand story is your foundation. It’s your compass to guide you in communicating why you do what you do.

Story is what impels people to drive past McDonald’s, 7-Eleven and Dunkin’ Donuts on their way to pay more for a cup of coffee from Starbucks. People buy into the experience that Starbucks offers. It’s not just about the coffee. It’s about how it makes them feel.

So give people a reason to care. Give them a story they can buy into. A story that gives them meaning. A story that changes how they feel and connects them to your purpose. Those people will appreciate the services you offer.

You get to create your brand story. You can design your business for the clients you love to serve. They’ll thank you by doing business with you.


Photo credit: Gotta love a great “junky” photo by Felipe Belluco. Thanks!

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Trevor Wilson

Trevor Wilson

I love helping business owners who are passionate about making a positive difference in their clients' lives. I'm a passionate learner and teacher. My purpose is to help people live a more fulfilled life. In my professional life, I love helping business owners get clear on their purpose and identity. Then I help them clearly communicate their story so they can attract their ideal clients. I do this because I believe that when you work with your ideal clients you'll live a more fulfilled life.

Successful people do what everyone else won't dare to do. Don't wish it were easier; make yourself better.

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