A Brand Story Experiment That Generated $3,612.51 For $178.74 In Junk

What if you could purchase a $1 knick-knack, wrap a cool story around it, throw it on ebay and get over $75 for that same knick-knack?

It reminds me of the guy who says, "I buy junk, but I sell antiques." As we know in marketing, perception has as much value (if not greater) than reality.

Rob Walker and Josh Glenn had a theory. They believed that story narratives could increase an object’s perceived value, and thus could increase the sale price the object could command on the market. So they launched an experiment.


The two adventure-preneurs made the rounds at some local thrift shops and bought 70 or so knick-knacks for just an average of $1.25 apiece.
Nothing fancy by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was all really worthless junk.

Next, they recruited some talented writers to craft creative story narratives that included the purchased items in the narratives. Then to see what kind of price they could get for the objects with the fanciful, they placed them for auction online.

They removed any skewing of the perceived value that might be added by art direction by shooting ordinary photographs of the merchandise. 

Then they placed the item photos on eBay with the finished creative narratives.

The results?

A shot glass purchased for $1 sold for $76. A ceramic piece of a beggarly man that they purchased for $2 sold for $56.50. A rubber band gun purchased for $1.50 sold for $63.50. These are just a few examples.

In their first series of experiments, they sold $128.74 “worth of thrift store junk” for a total of $3,612.51.

Given the success of that experiment, they ran more phases of similar experiments (to prove the first experiment wasn’t a fluke perhaps?) with similarly
astonishing results.

Their story was picked up by several major media outlets including NPR’s All Things Considered, The NY Times and The LA Times.

Yeah, a well-crafted story is really just that powerful.


What story could add value to your brand?

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