The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

NOTABLE! The power of story in sales, how Ziggy changed how I do business

Testament

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Dec 11, 2013
167
277
181
31
San Francisco, CA
What would you say the price of a Ziggy paperweight would be?



One dollar?

Two dollars...?

Priceless?

...Perhaps. And just looking at that bright, innocent smile silently encouraging me to have a lovely day, I'd be inclined to agree with you.

It just so happens that it was found in a thrift store, bought for two bucks. It was then placed on ebay and sold for a whopping fifty dollars.

Five. Zero.

How? Well, two guys set out to test a theory they had. Could a sufficiently awesome backstory raise the value of a product – even an objectively low value one – such that people would be willing to pay exponentially more for it?

Yes. Yes they can. And did.

And chronicled the whole thing on this website: www.significantobjects.com

Here's the particular story I'm referring to: Ziggy Heart

Ziggy was the first article I read on the website, and I was instantly hooked. I mean, I know the actual history of it (found in a thrift store for 2 bucks) and even I feel like I would want to buy it after reading that backstory. There are tons of great articles just like that, with items that sold similarly well. (Here's an article on two homies figurines that sold for 41 bucks...I think they're normally 25 cents.)

The overall result of their grand experiment? They turned around 200 items they found in thrift stores, each bought for an average of $1.25, into over 8000 dollars! :woot:

I've seen posts on here about the value of a good story to your brand, but this really drives the point home for me. I thought you guys might be able to apply this and get a kick out of some of the stories...I know I certainly did.

I guess that's just one more important life lesson we can say we learned from history's least offensive comic strip.

Thanks, Ziggy!

 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Ryllban

Bronze Contributor
Dec 15, 2013
170
157
98
This + your other thread with Ryan Holiday is pure gold my man!

Thank you very much!
 

pashka

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 24, 2018
43
59
115
Toronto
I've just came across the part of "Unscripted" where MJ mentions this case study.
How the story changes perceived value is indeed makes me ponder.

But I can't circumvent voicing my concern either.

The experiment authors were buying items from local thrift stores and listing them on eBay. So the price difference could be as well attributed to markets arbitrage, right? Taking an item from a local underexposed market and bringing it to a crowded eBay does sound like it might shift product's value. At least I know people who do exactly that and make some 6 figure yearly profits. In my opinion, this experiment would've been much cleaner had they taken items from eBay, added story to them and put them back to eBay.

What do you guys think about it?
 

Xeon

All Cars Kneel Before Pagani.
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Sep 3, 2017
1,140
2,483
562
Singapore
My question is, what value does immensly over inflating the price of a cheap product provide?

It's like I buy an eraser for 10 cents, add a great story to it and sell it for $30, but what's the actual value? Maybe this isn't a sustainable business model.
 

aspenriver

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Sep 10, 2014
10
20
19
My question is, what value does immensly over inflating the price of a cheap product provide?

It's like I buy an eraser for 10 cents, add a great story to it and sell it for $30, but what's the actual value? Maybe this isn't a sustainable business model.
In this case, as it is a auction, the buyers actually inflated the price. I think it shows that under certain circumstances people want and are willing to pay extra.

The question is when would you be willing to pay $30 for an eraser?

Or $50 for Garbage? This guy is actually making a killing selling garbage by packaging it differently : Original NYC Garbage

The same thing is going on all the time in the art world... A couple of months ago I bought two printed "paintings" and paid several times their intrinsic value (something like $60 for probably less than $20 worth of frames, printing and labor) because I liked the way they looked and the story of the artist. If I ever sell them, I will be sure to add that the dealer seemed to be drunk when I came back from the ATM with the cash :smile:
 

Xeon

All Cars Kneel Before Pagani.
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Sep 3, 2017
1,140
2,483
562
Singapore
In this case, as it is a auction, the buyers actually inflated the price. I think it shows that under certain circumstances people want and are willing to pay extra.

The question is when would you be willing to pay $30 for an eraser?

Or $50 for Garbage? This guy is actually making a killing selling garbage by packaging it differently : Original NYC Garbage

The same thing is going on all the time in the art world... A couple of months ago I bought two printed "paintings" and paid several times their intrinsic value (something like $60 for probably less than $20 worth of frames, printing and labor) because I liked the way they looked and the story of the artist. If I ever sell them, I will be sure to add that the dealer seemed to be drunk when I came back from the ATM with the cash :smile:
Lol WT actual F*ck....the Garbage of NYC box costs $50-$100 each, and his actual cost per product is probably $5 at most or much lesser. That's $45 per box of profits! Beautiful.

The way he packages the garbage looks aesthetically pleasing and cool though. Nice colors etc.
 

aspenriver

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Sep 10, 2014
10
20
19
How? Well, two guys set out to test a theory they had. Could a sufficiently awesome backstory raise the value of a product – even an objectively low value one – such that people would be willing to pay exponentially more for it?
This and the NYC garbage example that I referred to above are great examples of something called the Fortune Cookie Principle (by Bernadette Jiwa).

With a fortune cookie you have the cookie and the fortune...

The cookie represents the commodity like the paper weight or the garbage. The cookie is the logical reasons to buy the product or brand.

The fortune represents the intangible value, which is how it makes you feel. This includes the story, the presentation, the experience, etc.

Most companies concentrate on the cookie, while the real value (and profits) are in the fortune.
 

Fox

Legendary Contributor
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 19, 2015
1,979
14,484
2,776
Europe
Super interesting article.

I remember @MJ DeMarco talking about the power of having a company/product story on an inside progress thread. Didn't know it was this powerful though - I will have to look into this more.
 

masterneme

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Apr 13, 2015
283
684
269
36
There are people on Amazon selling "air" or "box of nothing" for 10$:

nothing.jpg

And they started to get 1 star reviews ONLY when they changed the package.
 

Xeon

All Cars Kneel Before Pagani.
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Sep 3, 2017
1,140
2,483
562
Singapore
This and the NYC garbage example that I referred to above are great examples of something called the Fortune Cookie Principle (by Bernadette Jiwa).
With a fortune cookie you have the cookie and the fortune...
The cookie represents the commodity like the paper weight or the garbage. The cookie is the logical reasons to buy the product or brand.
The fortune represents the intangible value, which is how it makes you feel. This includes the story, the presentation, the experience, etc.
Most companies concentrate on the cookie, while the real value (and profits) are in the fortune.
This post is gold. Great way of thinking. Easily understandable and applicable. I love it so much that I'm gonna buy the Kindle version of Bernadette's book tomorrow morning.

There are people on Amazon selling "air" or "box of nothing" for 10$:View attachment 20212 And they started to get 1 star reviews ONLY when they changed the package.
Seeing this and the NYC Garbage gave me many ideas lol
 

masterneme

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Apr 13, 2015
283
684
269
36
Seeing this and the NYC Garbage gave me many ideas lol
I think it was in the movie "The Secret", some people sold rocks they took from a river nearby.

I don't remember the amount but they supposedly told people to have the rock in their pocket and every time they touched it they'd have to have some positive thoughts.

This is all masterful salesmanship, the ability to create value out of apparently worthless items.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

AG356

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Apr 19, 2015
98
559
240
My question is, what value does immensly over inflating the price of a cheap product provide?

It's like I buy an eraser for 10 cents, add a great story to it and sell it for $30, but what's the actual value? Maybe this isn't a sustainable business model.
It's not a business model - it's a part of it.

"People don't buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic."

Great OP, thanks for the bump.
 

pashka

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 24, 2018
43
59
115
Toronto
"Or $50 for Garbage? This guy is actually making a killing selling garbage by packaging it differently : Original NYC Garbage"
Again, I think the catch is that he sells garbage from NY worldwide.
"Twelve years later, over 1,400 NYC Garbage cubes have been sold and now reside in 30 countries around the world."
So there is nome more factor at play - people buy part of NY (I may as well say, people who love NY, seen it in tons of movies but probably never been to it). NY is kind of an iconic city so sells can be attributed to this factor as well.

Try selling NY garbage to NY habitats. Why would they buy it? It's all over the streets every evening anyways.

There is another story of packaging & story that sells - Pet Rock Pet Rock - Wikipedia so it does work, I'm just not convinced about the cleanliness of the experiment mentioned above.
 

Flybye

Bronze Contributor
Feb 19, 2018
119
137
142
Cuba v2.1 (Miami)
It's not a business model - it's a part of it.

"People don't buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic."

Great OP, thanks for the bump.
Yep exactly what I was thinking. Stories themselves are not worth much, but when you have a tangible item connected to it, that is basically touching an emotion. People love feeling like they are part of something bigger. Something beyond them. They now have this thing in their hands with a story attached to it, and telling that story can make some people feel part of it. And the fun fact is people will pay for that feeling.
 

Chromozone

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Oct 28, 2015
71
209
153
United Kingdom
The point isn't "Oh, if I make up a story, then people will give me more money for it.".

The point is that the experiment proves how susceptible to story telling humans are. It doesn't matter if you don't like it or not, it's reality. And it is very likely that when you buy a product, you are telling yourself a story.

Why do you eat the breakfast cereal you eat when you can buy the non branded version? Is it because it's genuinely better or because of the story you were told when you were a child?

Information can be transmitted better with stories, because it gives you a lot more information which is not explicitly spoken.

When I sell my app, I don't say it can do x, y and z, I tell a story about why the app was made and why it is needed.
 

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,408
6,748
1,496
Louisville - Kentucky
I think there are mainly just 2 lessons here that apply to everything.

1. Money is made on the purchase, not the sell.

2. Sell people the dream ( this is the story part, the value ), not the facts.

.
 

MJ DeMarco

Administrator
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Jul 23, 2007
28,799
97,801
3,751
Fountain Hills, AZ
but what's the actual value?
The value increases due to perceived intangible value, mystique, and provenance.

For example, an eraser is only worth it's functional value.

But if the eraser was used by John F. Kennedy in erasing some terms on a historical document, suddenly the eraser is worth 1000X more than it's functional value. The functional value stayed the same, but it's mystique and provenance went through the roof.

Despite the old topic, it's still relevant today.

Thread upgraded to NOTABLE, the power of story in selling cannot be understated.
 

aspenriver

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Sep 10, 2014
10
20
19
Try selling NY garbage to NY habitats. Why would they buy it? It's all over the streets every evening anyways.
On the contrary, some of the articles on this business mention that New Yorkers were some of his earlier customers buying to send to their friends and relatives mainly as a joke (this was when they were sold on the street for $10).

That is one reason New Yorkers would buy it and there are bound to be several others. People do buy bottled water even if they can get the same free from a tap.
 

aspenriver

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Sep 10, 2014
10
20
19
Yesterday, I was on a date with a 30 year old Russian woman.

At some point she pulled her phone out and there was a piece of paper stuck between her iPhone 6 and the phone's transparent protective case. She preceded to show me her fortune from a fortune cookie she had on New Years eve...

Why did she still have this? Because it had value to her.. It was her fortune and it spoke to her.

What I am really intrigued about right now, is using intangible value to get a person to more actively engage with something.

Like, if I was to create a course on story driven marketing... How would I make sure that as many people went through it and took action as possible? How would I engineer it so that every time they thought of quitting, the story to remind them of why they want to learn this, would be 'in their phone case'.
 

Xeon

All Cars Kneel Before Pagani.
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Sep 3, 2017
1,140
2,483
562
Singapore
On the contrary, some of the articles on this business mention that New Yorkers were some of his earlier customers buying to send to their friends and relatives mainly as a joke (this was when they were sold on the street for $10).

That is one reason New Yorkers would buy it and there are bound to be several others. People do buy bottled water even if they can get the same free from a tap.
I was reading this book yesterday, "The Fortune Cookie Principle" after recommendation by one member above. There's a section which talked about this NYC Garbage thing. When he sold it at $10, people thought it was a joke. When he increased the price to $25, people saw it as a souvenir and gift. When he increased it to $50, people saw it as an art piece and sales increased....
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.



Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe to become an INSIDER.

Post New Topic

Please SEARCH before posting.
Please select the BEST category.

Post new topic

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom