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?

The Neuroscience Behind Brand Storytelling

When people are online they’re not looking for an “ad experience.”*

Most people online are either shopping, or looking for entertainment or information. And often, they’re looking for something embedded in that entertainment or information, that they may not even realize. 

And that something is inspiration. Which is really a light bulb moment. 

Because those moments give our brains a quick hit of the feel-good hit of the millennium: the neurotransmitter, dopamine. In fact, it's the urge to get that temporary high that often gets so many people addicted to their mobile devices.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? 

If people are shopping, then yeah, something like an online sales page can be great.

Otherwise, whether you head off down the road of providing entertainment or information, your chances of hitting a home run will be much greater if you provide content that inspires. 

But how? 

We’ll be talking about that soon.

A Great Brand Story Lets The Audience Connect The Dots

One key insight the Can You Trust Your Brain? brand story experiment leverages is that it's best for your brand to let audiences experience the conclusion you hope they'll make rather than to try to force a conclusion upon them through persuasion. 

And apparently, that's exactly what's happening, which helps explain why the Can You Trust Your Brain? experiment is also converting leads at a rate higher than anything I've personally experienced before.

The experiment was inspired by what I consider to be the most important discovery I've made in my 3+ years of research on the art and science of brand storytelling. It was a discovery that no one else in all the research I'd done specifically related to brand storytelling had even landed on.

The discovery came as a result of continuing to ask the question, "What makes brand storytelling different than other forms of marketing communications?" And "What exactly do we need to do to create highly effective brand stories?"

It would inspire my exclusive "connecting-the-dots" methodology for creating highly effective brand stories. 

And it changed my thinking about how to engage audiences more than any single insight I've had in my 25+ year career as a brand marketing professional. 

I'll share more about that discovery soon with a free preview of a video from the Brand Campfire series.