Significant Objects is “a literary and anthropological experiment devised by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, demonstrated that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively.” It’s a pretty fascinating experiment – these guys went out and bought small, seemingly junk objects for an average price of $1.25 from thrift stores and second-hand shops. Then they handed the items off to different authors with the simple request – can you write a story about this?

The objects and stories sold, combined, for nearly $8000 on ebay and other outlets – and have since turned into books and other projects. Here’s a yoyo that was bought for 25 cents. It, along with its companion story by Mark Sarvas, sold for $41. Not to shabby.

The heart of marketing is the story

We – I mean we people, we human beings – we love stories. We’re conditioned for them. Our brains fire off in interesting ways when we hear stories. We’re captivated and intrigued and attracted to stories. This is what makes for great comedians or presenters or radio personalities – they know how to tell a story. They can take even the mundane and turn it into something interesting.

Most small businesses don’t tell their stories very well – they talk instead of features and benefits. Speeds and feeds. We do this, we sell this, ours is cheaper than those guys or better than those other guys or faster or we’re open later or have more locations. This stuff is important – it’s not meaningless – but it’s data. Some of your audience might find data really motivating, but most won’t. And most won’t necessarily understand why. We don’t know a good story until we hear it. A yoyo is just a yoyo until it isn’t.

Emotion compels and sells

We can get information from how some of the best companies do it – and in fact I suggest you study those brands and companies you admire. Apple ran a fantastic ad for the 2017 holidays for its AirPods headphones. Most small businesses would market this product by talking about its small size and convenient wireless capabilities. Apple doesn’t tell you about that stuff, it shows you. Under the illusion of a woman who presses play and is transported into her own world of music – a sensation people who listen to music on headphones can relate to. When she bumps into a guy she shared her headphones (oh hey that’s an interesting feature) and together they share the moment. Apple closes the ad with encouragement to move someone this holiday – a play on the movement we’ve just seen.

Here’s what I’d like you to do next:

When we open our creativity, our marketing can become much more than information to transfer like how things work or how satisfied your customer is. When you know your story – the thing thing that makes you unique or different or attractive – find ways to leverage that story that go beyond what might be most obvious. The ways to do this are as endless as your imagination – let’s say you have multiple locations in your business. The obvious marketing tactic is we have more stores than anybody for your convenience. That’s great for your customers! But what if instead of just saying it, you brought a camera with you and drove to each location, stopping along the way to shake hands with people in your community and you posted the video on YouTube and your social media channels. Now you’re in the stuff of great content – the marketing buzzword for cool stuff you’re creating and sharing. Now you’re telling a story of community involvement or readiness. And by the way – now you’re building a brand.

Seth Godin says Marketing is just knowing your story and who cares about it. Make sure you know yours well so others can learn it too.

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