It’s not often I mix my hobby with my work, but I will ask that you indulge me for a few minutes as I try to explain how these three World War I medals can teach modern marketers an invaluable lesson.
The medal in question is known as the British Victory Medal. It was awarded to all members of the British and Imperial forces who took part in the war. Some six million medals were issued resulting in a very common medal found for sale today. What, then, do these three identical, standard-issue campaign medals have to do with 21st-century marketing?
Here’s a clue: The medal on the left has a market value of around £12-£15. The one in the middle has a value of around £35-£45 and the one on the right (the one without a ribbon and the blemishes) has a market value of over £100.
Why the huge disparity in market value? The answer is simple, the value is in the story behind the medal.
A Look Beyond the Just the Medal
You see, when I said the medals were identical, that wasn’t strictly true. Around the rim of each medal is inscribed the name, rank, service number, and regiment of the person the medal was awarded to. With a bit of research and investigation, we can quickly build up the story of the man behind the medal.
The medal on the left (market value £12-£15) was awarded to 141322 Gunner James Doyle who served in the Royal Field Artillery. His records were destroyed in The Blitz of 1940 so there is not much we know about him other than he survived the war and was awarded one other campaign medal for his troubles. Although he was brave enough to go off to war and probably saw things during his service that would give us all nightmares, there is very little story to tell—hence the low market value.
The middle medal (market value £35-£45) was awarded to 15524 Sergeant Thomas Pattison who served in the 15th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. Sergeant Pattison survived the war and was awarded the Military Medal for “bravery in the field” during a particularly nasty fight in September 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres (better known as Passchendaele) a few days after his 24th birthday. We also know that before the war he worked down the coal mines—I even have a photograph of him in full uniform.
Basically, he has a more complete and interesting story, hence the market value for his medal is three or four times the previous example.
This brings us on to the final medal and I am sure by now you know what I am going to say. This medal was awarded to 23258 Private Albert Hudson who was killed in action on 1st July 1916 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The date he was killed is significant as it is the first day of the First Battle of the Somme—a day where the British Army suffered 57,470 casualties with 19,240 men killed. The story of this day is hugely powerful, well known, and has captured the imagination of the public by having been told in hundreds of documentaries, films, and books. Hence the significant market value of almost ten times the first example.
Finding the Lesson
The lesson for marketers is clear: The more interesting your story (or the more you tell your story in an interesting way) the more value people will place in your brand.
If the market places a high value on your brand two things happen—firstly, you will be the first place your prospects go to if they need the product/service that you are offering; and secondly, they will be more willing to accept a higher price point due to the perceived added value they will be getting from you. This is why Bose Headphones command a higher retail price than JBL; why BMW tends to be more expensive than Ford, and why anything Apple produces comes with a very high price tag yet flies off of the shelves.
As humans, we love stories. Stories allow us to experience an emotion—whether that is fear, happiness, contentment, sadness, or elation. Think back to those three medals—Private Hudson was killed in action during a huge battle that cost thousands of lives. That is a story that millions of people have an emotional attachment with due to extensive media coverage over the years. Taking this into consideration, it now seems obvious why this medal should command a higher price than the others.
As marketers, it is our responsibility to be the storytellers in our business.
Think of your company as one of those medals, lined up with other medals (your competitors). From the outside, each company looks broadly similar, but it will be your story that sets up apart from the other medals in your market. It is your story that can emotionally affect your prospects and persuade them to act in your favor.
Tell your story well.