How narrative increased these products’ value by 2,806%

April 30, 2018

Your brand’s narrative must be compelling. Your profits depend on it! If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Significant Objects project by Joshua Glen and Rob Walker.

The pair of writers set out to conduct an experiment exploring the relationship between narrative and value perception. They purchased an array of worthless objects from yard sales and thrift stores. A felt mouse, a Missouri shot glass, a broken mermaid figurine and a slew of other items at an average price of $1.25.

Their team of writers then crafted a narrative for each trinket. Some of the items became totems that harnessed magical powers, some played a role in past events, and others bore a historical witness to a forgotten way of life. Whatever the story, each item was listed on eBay with the author’s name and story inserted into the listing description. Their goal was to see how much their stories affected the selling price of the products.

An Almost 3,000% Increase

The results? $128.74 dollars worth of junk sold for $3,612.51. That’s almost a 3,000% increase. 2,806.05% to be exact. The felt mouse they purchased for .50 cents? It sold for $62. The Missouri shot glass that cost them $1? That one sold for $76. The broken mermaid figurine they bought for $1 ended up going for $68

Since it was first conducted, the experiment has been replicated with similar results and has become an ongoing project. Significant Objects donates all of their proceeds to charity.

Narrative and Your Brand

What’s the takeaway for your brand? Value perception is relative.

And because of that, a product’s value can be increased without making any changes to the product itself (a scary responsibility, I know). 

In the case of the significant objects experiment, narrative alone — when connected with the right audience — was shown to increase value. When your brand’s narrative resonates with your customers, you can command higher prices and subsequently generate higher profits.

Your brand’s narrative, even on its own, is an important tool in your brand strategy toolbox. Use it properly and your brand’s value will increase, allowing you to bypass competitors that use brand-killing discounts and unhealthy pricing strategies. If you want your brand to make an impact on your bottom line, thoughtfully crafting your narrative is a must.

2023 - Zach Janicello

2023 - Zach Janicello