There is a magnificant piece of research that went on a few years ago which neatly summed up a what marketing can do. It proves why marketing is so important for creating value, and profits, in business. It was called the Significant Objects Experiment.
In a nutshell they bought around one hundred near worthless items such as a plastic banana, golf ball piggy bank and a coconut shaped cup and paid $127 for them. They then placed them on ebay, but instead of a description they wrote stories that included the item. They didn’t pretend the items were the actual ones in the stories, they were just
great stories written by talented authors. The results were outstanding. The items all sold for over $3,600 – that’s a return on investment of 2800%.
What went on here is that readers of those stories developed an emotional attachment to the product through the story. This created real value for them and they were willing to pay a lot more for the item. It’s this emotional connection that marketing is always trying to create. And before you ask, this is also true in the business to business sphere – people fundamentally buy on emotion. The logical head stuff goes on, of course, but in the end they buy because their heart tells them to.
So what practical advice can we take from this experiment? Basically you should be creating stories for your business, products and services that connect with your audience. This could simply be the story behind the companies growth, why it has that vision it has, a charismatic founder or the company goldfish in the corner of the office. It will also be telling the story of how the product or service helped another person or business to overcome the problems they were facing (these are called case studies!)
This is where social media is really useful – its’ a great way to tell stories which people can choose to engage with. The better the story and the more relevant it is for your audience, the more they will follow it. This is often called a content plan and can either be long term or short term. For example following the story about the research and innovation efforts of your company would be longer term. However, for an event you are running featuring a unique hashtag and videos and photos before, during and after the event would be a short term story. On this last point the hashtag gives your audience the means to follow that story, not just from your perspective but from others involved. This enables it to grow and take on a more compelling depth.
So remember, you need to unlock or create the stories that will give your audience an emotional response. Ask yourself when you are putting your content plan together “what’s the story here and would my audience care?”