Richelle Parham — Objects of Our Desire
The rise of e-commerce has made the buying and selling of products and merchandise easier than ever, but the proliferation of choices in an increasingly crowded marketplace poses an immense challenge for companies. "Customers have a lot of distractions," says Richelle Parham, the chief marketing officer of eBay North America. "You've got your TV on, your tablet in front of you, your phone to the sideÑand we're all trying to capture your attention in different ways. It's important to build strong contact strategies." Stories, says Parham in this eye-opening film, are essential for establishing those contacts. She and her team of marketers can look at the transaction history of eBay's millions of sellers and buyers, look at the relationships they build with each other, and see stories emerge. And from those stories they can gain tremendous insights into how the broader community of online shoppers define and express themselves in the marketplace. "Stories are the foundation of what we do everyday," Parham says. A recent literary and anthropological experiment called Significant Objects illustrates Parham's point vividly. For the project, objects of little intrinsic valueÑa wood-handled whisk, a crudely carved figurine, a numbered ceramic tileÑwere offered for sale on eBay accompanied not by a conventional description of the merchandise, but by a fictional narrative centered around those objects, all of which leapt in value astronomically during the bidding process. Buyers, in essence, were paying not just for the object itself, but also for the story that accompanied it.