Friday, August 9, 2013

To stand out in a crowd, tell a good story

In 2006 a New York Times columnist got to wondering why one pair of shoes cost more than another, if they were of similar quality. Or why one piece of art was worth a million and another worth a few bucks.

As Ty Montague relates, the columnist, Rob Walker, concluded that the value isn't contained in the objects themselves, but in the meaning the objects represent to the owner.
Walker began buying random, worthless, or low-value objects at tag sales and thrift shops. The cost of the objects ranged from one to four dollars. An old wooden mallet. A lost hotel room key. A plastic banana. These were true castoffs with little or no intrinsic worth. 
Next, Walker asked some unknown writers to each write a short story that contained one of the objects. The stories weren't about the objects, per se; but they helped to place them in a human context, to give them new meaning. 
When Walker put the objects, along with their accompanying stories, up for sale on eBay, the results were astonishing. On average, the value of the objects rose 2,700%. That's not a typo: 2,700%. A miniature jar of mayonnaise he had purchased for less than a dollar sold for $51.00. A cracked ceramic horse head purchased for $1.29 sold for $46.00. The value of these formerly abandoned or forsaken objects suddenly and mysteriously skyrocketed when they were accompanied by a story. 
The project was so successful that it has been repeated it 5 times and is on the web
So what's your story? 

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