Maybe… your photos (OK, your laptop with said photos), that coffee mug your grandmother made when she was a teenager, the painting you and your husband bought on honeymoon in Bali?
Would you grab your 54” flat screen? The expensive wine in the cellar? Your light fixtures you just spent a bunch of money on? I doubt it, unless the wine was procured on a trip through Burgundy with someone special.
The items in the first group have meaning. The second group might have a higher cost, but they can be replaced – so they get left behind.
Because objects with meaning have more value
This three-strand simulated pearl necklace sells on QVC for $116. The founder of the company had purchased Jackie Onassis’ necklace in auction and had then had an exact replica made which she now sells for $116 along with a Certificate of Authenticity. The description reads “Model your style after one of the most fashionable females of our time.” It is one of the most popular items on QVC.
Meanwhile, I could buy a similar necklace for $40 at Macy’s. But what fun is that? If I can afford it, I’d much rather walk around wearing an exact replica of Jackie O’s famous pearls.
The value of stories
Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker set out to prove the point above in their Significant Objects experiment. They purchased $128 worth of trinkets at thrift stores and assigned each item to a writer who would then create a story around that item. They weren’t trying to mislead anyone – it was clear the stories were fictional.
The items sold on ebay for $3,600. That’s a pretty big return on investment, simply by adding a story.
Uncovering emotional stories
We’re hearing a lot about brand story these days. It’s always been around, but seems to be the rage now. I’m not a huge fan of the term, but since I can’t think of anything better at the moment, we’ll go with it. Telling your “brand story” might sound like fluff, but giving your customers an emotional reason to buy your product or service can be big business. Emotion often trumps cold reason because our brains are just wired to react differently.
Uncovering your story is not always easy. It starts with some real “soul-searching.” Yes, brands can search their souls.
- Who‘s story is it? All stories have characters and your brand story features your customer, not you. Make the story about them.
- What does your audience care about? What drives them crazy? What makes them happy? What makes them cry with happiness? What are their biggest obstacles? Answers to these questions allow you to understand the conflict and resolve it.
- How do you want them to react? Understand at a deep level how the thing you provide makes the world a better place for your buyers. ”Our product or service” is the wrong answer. It’s not about features, it’s about benefits. In order to make that emotional connection, connect the dots between the protagonist, what they care about, and how you solve it.
There are a number of ways stories affect our audience and I’ll write more on that in the future. Maybe they just want to fit in; or they might have a problem they didn’t even know could be solved.
I’ll leave you with one last example.
Red Wing shoes appeals to the working man. “Work is our work. Work is our pride,” is prominently displayed on their home page. You can meet the team that crafts the boots and read the stories about the men who originally wore them in the early 1900s. Now, fashionistas pay top dollar at trendy shops to wear Red Wings paired with leggings and oversized Pendleton plaid shirts.
Red Wing hasn’t changed their story. They still target the working man or woman, but because of that story, they attract more people who want to be a part of it. Because they’ve held true to what makes them tick through and through, others want to be a part of that.
Good stories hold your audience captive. Connect those dots, and weave that story throughout your brand in your communications, hiring practices, and customer experience, and you will um, live happily ever after. (I couldn’t help myself.)