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True Value: Rob Walker's Significant Objects and E-Commerce [VIDEO]
Significant Objects | October 29, 2012

True Value: Rob Walker's Significant Objects and E-Commerce [VIDEO]

Rob Walker says that the things we own aren't valuable intrinsically—it's the narrative that we attach to those objects that gives them value and meaning. As part of the Future of Storytelling conference, a group of contributors from Walker's Significant Objects eBay project put together a video to document the power that the subjective meaning of an object can have on its monetary value. For the project, Walker and his co-founder compiled a collection of ordinary objects, had a writer craft a story about the "meaning" of that object, and then sold the items on eBay. What they found was that the objects sold for exponentially more (they were purchased for around $125 dollars and sold for over $8,000) online when there was some kind of story attached to them.

The short film stars Richelle Parham, who is the Chief Marketing Officer for eBay. She uses Walker's Significant Objects project (which has now been turned into a book of the same name) as a guide on maketing in the age of e-commerce. Accompanied by the writers who brought new life to Walker's ordinary objects, she explains that customers will pay more if they feel like there is a story behind the object or service they are buying. In essence, they pay more for the story than they would for just the object on its own. This is drastically changing the retail experience, Parham says. Through their behaviour, consumers are telling companies what they want.

Walker has been heralded as a beacon in retail for his provocative consumer insights. He regularly writes for New York Times Magazine, and authored Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, which was named as Salon's Best Nonfiction Book of 2008. His keynotes explain the value that exists in pairing an emotional story with a product or service. His talks explore the true meaning of value, and helps consumers and retailers alike leverage this knowledge to make more informed product selections.
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