Storytelling dominates the marketing landscape these days and it’s no surprise why:  science has proven that stories are more likely than facts to trigger the emotions and recall that drive buying decisions. 

But can a story make a financial impact?  Can it improve profitability or pricing power? A fascinating experiment called Significant Objects provides the evidence.

Back in 2009-2010, a group of writers led by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn devised an experiment to test the effect of narrative on the subjective value of a particular item in an effort to prove that it could be measured objectively.

In the experiment, Walker and Glenn purchased 100 thrift store, garage sale and flea market objects for a total cost of $128.74 and tested their average purchase price on eBay, which was $1.29.

They then asked 100 creative writers to invent stories about each object: nothing crazy, like saying “this was Lincoln’s salt-shaker”: just simple narratives that would elicit an emotional response.  They then relisted the objects on eBay to see if the stories enhanced their value. 

Story Takes ROI Through the Roof!

After being “re-branded” so to speak, the objects collectively sold for $3612.51 or an average purchase price of $36.12 for a whopping ROI of 2,706%!

Some of the objects had even more incredible returns – a cigarette case purchased for 10 cents and sold for $33.77 (33,670% ROI) – with even the lowest-performing object ­– a pair of wooden Hawaiian utensils purchased for $1.99 and sold for $4.24 – generating an ROI of 118%.

Think about that for a second…

100 mundane objects – bought, re-branded with a story and resold – and the WORST performing object more than DOUBLED in price!  What other investment can you make that will have that kind of impact on your organization’s financial results?


Are you ready to see what a great story can do to boost the perceived value of your products and services (not to mention the overall value of your company)?  Download our self-diagnostic to see if it's to update your brand narrative and then contact BrandFoundations and let us help you tell your story for maximum impact.