The power of storytelling

“This buggy signifies everything that ended my happy carefree low cost child free life”

– lessons from eBay on the power of storytelling

Storytelling - buggy 26-05-2016

‘Storytelling’ is in vogue, as a dynamic tool to bring research findings to life.

A couple of recent eBay listings would seem to confirm the power of storytelling:

Joel Andresier of Southampton listed his used baby buggy, waxing lyrically (and in my opinion quite hilariously) about the impact it had had on his life (check the link – he’s less than positive!).  At one point bids hit £154,200 and prompted 6 pages of buyer questions (he did reset the price leading to an eventual sale at £325, as Mr. Andresier wasn’t optimistic about the bidder stumping up £150K!)


Storytelling - bid pic 26-05-2016


Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn  conducted an eBay experiment whereby including the story of this ‘delightful’ second hand gypsum Rhino figurine increased its ‘value’ from $1 to $57

Storytelling - Rhino 26-05-2016

We’d contend that ‘storytelling’ is core to the value that insight brings and not just ‘added value.’  Stories are the life-blood of research; our work is predicated on little pieces of everyone’s story – be it how they cope with diabetes, how they choose their insurance provider or how they decide to adopt a cat.

But what is the essence of storytelling and a good story?

As with so much marketing activity, “content is the King“. But it’s not just about how you weave disparate facts, thoughts and feelings into a meaningful whole.  It also matters which threads you choose to develop, and which you leave behind.  It’s the spaces in between as well as the words themselves that create the story.

Think about your own life:  If someone asked you “What’s your life story?” you wouldn’t start by describing your life from day one. It’s our capability to narrate that helps us to make meaning out of the random episodes in our life. Except that what we decide to include in our story is anything but random – it actually speaks volumes about our identity, what we believe and what our aspirations are.  As TED speaker Lisa Cron said, “Without a story we would live in the perpetual right now”.

This continual stripping back, honing and selecting to get to the essence, the nugget of a brand’s meaning, is at the heart of good storytelling.

Which is why we view storytelling as part of analysis.  It is actually a way of thinking about insight and data, rather than simply a delivery technique.  And we will be thinking seriously about how to write any future eBay listings!


Tell us about your experiences with storytelling  – have you seen it make a difference to the insight itself?  How has storytelling helped you?