Kate Bernheimer, one of the contributors to Rob Walker
and Joshua Glenn's Significant Objects
, was so moved by the project that she decided to teach her students about it. Called, “one of the living masters of the fairy tale,” Bernheimer teaches a class at the University of Arizona, where she instructed her students to read Walker and Glenn's book on the power that meaning can bestow to the value of an otherwise everyday object. After reading the book, the students were asked to recreate the Significant Objects
project. They were given two objects that cost less than a dollar, instructed to write a story about it, and put then it up for auction on eBay. The Novel Objects assignment
replicated Walker and Glenn's work, where they had authors write a story about the history of a normal, insignificant object and then assessed how the value of each object increased when people believed that the item in question had some sort of historical significance. The result? That the objects with stories behind them sold for significantly more then their intrinsic value.
Walker is an expert on material culture and branding. His books include Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are
and Letters From New Orleans
. He has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, Adbusters
and The New York Times Magazine.
In his keynotes, he explores the relationship between consumers and products—making connections between the material goods we buy and why we value them. From there, he also explains how to better market products and how to create a deeper connection between the buyer and the object, helping businesses create brand loyalty, engage with their customers, and ultimately improve their bottom line.