The Latest From Echo-Factory

Early Stage Branding – Ignore at Your Own Peril


Early Stage Branding

In this two-part series, we examine the importance of early stage branding, strategy and promotion for startups.

Recently we pitched branding, marketing strategy and promotion to the owner of a tech startup who had achieved some initial success in his industry. The man was skeptical. While he conceded that branding is important, he didn’t think it was necessary at such an early stage in his business’s development.

Of course we jumped at the chance to convince him otherwise, because we know that early stage branding is the best and most important kind and that, without strategy and promotion, the risk of failure goes up exponentially. Thankfully, after stating our case, we convinced him to move forward with a strategic branding effort as soon as possible. But it made us realize that his is probably not the only startup out there holding off on this critical aspect of business development. That’s why we decided to put this article together to explain:

-Why it’s of vital importance to begin branding efforts as early as possible.

-Why it’s important to have a strategic plan that fits seamlessly into a business’s overall goals.

-Why hiring a team of experts will save time, money and potential disaster.

“Know Thyself”

            Inscription in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi

In order to effectively communicate who you are to your target market, you have to actually know who you are. And while most businesses think they know, we can’t tell you how many times we’ve started asking fundamental questions regarding operations, budgets, forward strategy, key markets and company goals only to get the following answer: “Let me get back to you on that one.”

Developing and positioning a brand to reflect a company’s identity, speak to the right people at the right time and send the right message communicated in the right tone requires that business operators know their company and know their audience inside and out. This means being able to articulate—on demand—the business’s mission, culture and values. The earlier a company tackles this hurdle, the better. Because it’s one thing to have the next game-changing technology—it’s another thing altogether to actually position that technology to change the game.

“You may delay, but time will not.”

            Benjamin Franklin

You have the product; you have your key people; you have an opportunity to present your product to an investor that could catapult your business into the stratosphere.

But wait. You don’t have any marketing materials. Crap!

Quick. You need a logo—one that can see you through at least the next three to five years. You need a tagline, too—something that sums up who you are in 10 words or less. Oh no, they’re asking for a website? You can’t show them that mess your niece threw together after securing your domain. What about a brochure? A business card? Heck, you’re going to need something—anything that makes you look like you’re actually working out of an office, rather than the garage.

More than 33 billion dollars was handed out by venture capitalists in 2013 in the U.S. alone. But getting a piece of that capital is not just a matter of standing in line with your hand out. You’ve got to wow the crowd. Have you been on Kickstarter lately? If so, you may have noticed these wooden map guys. They run a simple business—selling wall art in the form of machine-cut wooden maps. They had a modest financial goal—$7,500 for equipment that will help them expand their product line. As of this writing, they have raised $15,697 and earned a feature on the Kickstarter discovery page. Small potatoes, sure, but relatively speaking, they are killing it. And here’s why: They look legit. They’ve got a website, a YouTube video, professional photography, a blog (though they could post more often)—the works. The result? The world of (Kickstarter) finance takes them seriously.

And think about it, if this kind of complete marketing package was necessary to convince the average Kickstarter funder to throw them five bucks, imagine what kind of game you’re gonna need to get in with the big VC firms, angel investors and private equity seed financiers.

Still not convinced? Don’t take it from us; check out point three in Paul Jackson’s Entrepreneur article about how to secure funding from a VC firm.

Because here’s the deal, branding is campaigning. Branding is shaking hands and kissing babies (metaphorically speaking). Branding is persuasion. It’s convincing people to like you, to support you, to promote you, to be loyal to you. There are other choices out there—good, dare we say great, choices. It’s your brand’s job to convince customers—whether they are investors or end users—that you are the best choice, now and in the future. And everyone knows the first rule of politics is: “Control the message.”

You see, in the absence of a brand, your audience—whether they are investors or customers—will create one, because not caring about the brand is branding. Appearing not to have a budget for branding, is branding. Cheesy, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute branding materials is branding. Would you go to a job interview (outside of Silicon Valley)with your tie askance, shirt untucked, bed-headed and furry-toothed? If so, that’s probably why you’re reading this in your PJ’s at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday, instead of working. Image matters.

And from our side, branding early just makes the whole process a heck of a lot easier. Because if we are involved from the beginning, we won’t have to spend a ton of our time (and your money) undoing the damage of your “non-branding” efforts. Scrubbing an image from the hearts and minds of investors and consumers can take a long time—time you just don’t have in today’s competitive marketplace.

Like what we’re saying? Stay tuned for part two in our series on early stage branding, strategy and promotion…



You’re Not Reaching Your Customers Because You Don’t Know Who They Are.


Persona Development

Building Personas As The Foundation of a Successful Marketing Campaign

According to a 2013 Forbes magazine article titled, “Five Reasons 8 out of 10 Businesses Fail,” the number one impediment to success is that businesses are “[n]ot really in touch with customers through deep dialogue.”

Here at Echo-Factory, we agree that dialogue is important, but we’d take the analysis a step further and contend that most businesses fail because they never even knew who their customers were, let alone engaged them in deep dialogue. Sure they might have a vague idea—gender, 10-year age range, region, that sort of thing—but have you ever tried to have a deep dialogue with a 28- to 35-year-old female who is ethnically neutral, is of average income, enjoys the outdoors and lives in the Southwest? By its very nature, this type of broad stroke consumer identification is impossible to engage with any kind of depth. Because this is not a person—it’s a range.

getting setup for the workshop

getting ready for persona development


That’s why one of the first things we do whenever we take on a new client is research the heck out of them—their industry, their history and their pain points, their goals, wants and needs. Then, after we’ve developed a thorough understanding of our client, we dive into understanding their customers. And not in general terms—we get out the fine-tipped brushes and fill in the lines. Does this woman enjoy base-jumping or bird-watching—or both? It matters. Is this woman 28 or 35? It matters. Is she a resident of Ocean Beach or Newport Beach? It matters. It matters because when you’ve got the details, you’ve got an actual person capable of participating in a deep dialogue. It matters because you now know where to reach her and what she cares about. You can speak to her in her language in a way that will engage her rather than alienate her. We call this process persona building, and it’s basic procedure for us. If you want your business to succeed, it should be basic procedure for you, too.

Knowing your customers and communicating with them effectively is crucial, but all too often this vital strategic element is either totally ignored or relegated to the bottom of the list. And it’s a shame whenever this happens, but this misstep becomes truly unfortunate when the businesses involved are innovative, ethically minded, socially responsible, environmentally conscious and human rights driven.

We don’t like to play favorites, but the truth is that we love brilliant people who want to do good in the world, and more than anything, we want to see them succeed. That’s why if we ever have an opportunity to share our expertise with a socially progressive company, we don’t hesitate. So when the LA Cleantech Incubator invited Echo-Factory principal, Mike Schaffer, to speak on the topic of persona building for their LACI Design Thinking Series, he jumped at the chance.

design thinking workshop

design thinking workshop

The incubator is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to building LA’s green economy through providing affordable office space, mentoring and CEO coaching, and access to extensive investor and customer networks for the area’s most promising cleantech start-ups. The Design Thinking Series features four seminars at which various industry experts lead talks and practice groups on various business-building topics to help young entrepreneurs identify, understand and design products and services that will best serve the needs of their customers. Other companies involved include industrial design firm Pull Creative and creative engineering company Motivo. The series’ working subject was to develop a product that would address the issue of asthma in children who live within a quarter of a mile of a freeway.

As persona building is a foundational element to any successful business, Mike’s seminar, titled, “Identifying Personas and Crafting the Ideal User Experience,” kicked off the series. Attendees learned about the importance of developing personas in order to meet their customers’ need, and then they put that theory into practice by conducting market research and developing three preliminary personas to be built upon throughout the remaining seminars.

“The three foundational elements we drive with each of our portfolio companies are intellectual property strategies, investment prep and design thinking. The first two are very common in the start-up world but the design thinking side has been undervalued for far too long,” said Erik Steeb, VP of Programs at LACI. “Design is a critical element of any business, and it starts with really understanding your customer. To get the best result, we partnered with the best. The combination of Pull Creative, Echo-Factory and Motivo Engineering has been a great asset to our companies.”

We love being involved in projects like these, because we want these socially responsible entrepreneurs to succeed and we know they can’t without the proper tools and knowledge. We want to see eight out of 10 businesses succeed, not fail, and developing accurate personas is one of the first steps to making that happen.

“Onboarding” and Other Awful Buzzwords



To get up to speed; a bastardization of the phrase “to get someone on board” and making it into a verb.

As in…
“Make sure the new guy onboards with the tracking software. We’ll need him up to speed by next week.”

The other day I was on a conference call, being trained in a piece of online lead tracking software, and the presenter said, “The next step in the onboarding process is…”

I just about choked on my microphone.   Really?  Onboarding?

Buzzwords are, in my opinion, mostly lazy attempts at sounding clever.  They’re jargon.  Designed to make the speaker seem smart, and the spoken-to seem out of touch.

Perhaps worst of all, they get in the way of perfectly decent words that carry much more useful meaning.

“Onboarding process” sounds ridiculous, and has no shared meaning outside of tech companies trying to sound trendy.  Swap out “onboarding” for “training” and you’ve got a sentence that means something.  And doesn’t sound silly.

So long as I’m having a curmudgeonly rant, let me share three more of my current least-favorite buzzwords:

  • Cloud Based — When it was first coined, this term meant something.  A distributed online computing architecture. That’s a real thing.  But it’s been so horribly abused that it’s lost all meaning.  Most often, it’s used interchangeably with “online.” In which case, “online” would be a much better word to use.
  • Gamification — Please stop it.  I’m not going to sell out my entire address book to your online service just to earn another badge.  Check out Phillip Trippenbach’s excellent article on the topic: Kill it With Fire: why Gamification sucks and Game Dynamics rule.
  • Disruptive — Sure.  You’ve got a great idea.  Your startup is awesome.  And you’re totally going to upend Facebook/Amazon/The Goat Industry.  I’m thrilled.  But please figure out a way to stop using Silicon Valley’s most pernicious cliché.

I could go on whinging all day.  But I’ll end by linking you to a great infographic with 30 buzzwords.  At least it’s self-aware enough to list “infographic” as one of those buzzwords.



The Good, Bad & Ugly of 2014 Super Bowl Ads


It’s time for the 5th annual installment of our popular(ish) critique of the year’s Super Bowl ads. Unless your license plate says “Washington” on it, this was about the most boring football game of the season, which means that this year’s ads had an even bigger entertainment challenge than normal. So were they up for it? Were they good enough to entertain us from the single-sided butchery that was happening on the field?

Let’s see.

The Best

Car Companies

This year, car companies led the field with the best ads of the big game.

Volkswagen’s “Wings” commercial was excellent. I get shivers down my spine imagining the client meeting where someone from Volkswagen’s agency sat in front of a marketing VP and said, “So, then at the end, when a car hits 200,000 miles, a rainbow comes out of his butt.” I’ll happily buy a round for the creative team at Argonaut for convincing a client to let them run that ad on national television. I’ll buy a second one for managing to keep the ad on message and suggest that an average Jetta could really make it 200,000 miles.

Chevy’s two truck ads also deserve a special mention. Before their Super Bowl spots, the automaker’s “A man and his truck” campaign was completely uninspired. It was the same “drive a Chevy and be a manly cowboy” tune they’ve been singing for the past few decades. But, “A man, his truck and an aroused cow” takes things in a whole new direction. No one expects Chevy to take a chance on advertising that might make viewers uncomfortable, so they deserve recognition for taking a risk and pulling it off. Their “Life” commercial was a genuinely sweet counterpoint to the merciless thrashing happening in MetLife Stadium.

The clever offroading Smart Car spot was Sarah’s favorite, and Jeep and Kia did a good job of respectively reinforcing and changing perceptions of their brands. Audi’s Doberhuahua was a big winner in our office, being picked by Sydnee, Roni and Hayley, giving it the most “favorite” votes of any spot.

As relatively obscure luxury brands, Maserati and Jaguar both ran very good branding spots that should help 5 Series and S-Class shoppers at least take a second look before they hand over their large wads of cash to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Even Kia’s Morpheus ad made me stop and think, “Huh, maybe it would be nice to ride around in a Kia.” That’s something I’ve never ever thought before.

The only real exception to the whole bunch of good and great Super Bowl car ads was Hyundai’s “Nice”. It wasn’t necessarily bad, just boring. Proof that paying celebrities to be in your ad isn’t the secret to advertising success. Oh, and Chrysler’s Bob Dylan spot, which was so boring that I forgot about it until just now. Bob Dylan’s a legend. His commercial wasn’t legendary.

Other Standouts

Dorito’s Time Machine was on both Mike and Carl’s lists of favorites, and Mike and Sydnee both like Stephen Colbert splitting open his head for Pistachios. Also, does anyone know how Pistachios™ became a brand? Are almonds going to spend $4 million on a spot next year? Will walnuts start an intensive social media campaign in the fall? What about legumes? When will lima beans get a trademark?

Mike, who’s no fan of Bud Light, admitted that Ian’s adventures just might be enough to get him to drink one. I don’t know what more you could ask from a $4 million spot. He also liked Duracell’s very inspirational Derrick Coleman spot. I agree, though I’m not sure it will influence my battery choices next time I’m buying double-As at Costco.

Coca-Cola deserves recognition for knowing that its multilingual “America the Beautiful” commercial would enrage our country’s racist nut-jobs, and choosing to run it anyway. Check out Atlanta news anchor Brenda Wood’s monologue on the topic if you’re still not sure which side of the nut-jobbery fence you’re settling on.

Mixed Reviews

Sarah and Mustafa are wonderful people, but I totally disagree with them when it comes to Greek yogurt advertising.  I hope we’ll be able to stay friends. Oikos’s Full House reunion got Mustafa right in the nostalgia, but I thought it was too forced, and didn’t really say anything about the product it was trying to sell.

On the other hand, I thought Chobani’s rampaging grizzly was great, but Sarah picked it as her least favorite for being “random and pointless”. I guess Chobani’s messaging wasn’t as clear as I thought. It’s also worth noting that about five years ago, no one in America had Greek yogurt in their fridge, and Sunday we watched at least $8 million worth of advertising for it during the country’s biggest television event.

I’m also on the losing side of intra-office opinions on Tebow for T-Mobile. I love to see a celebrity make fun of themselves, and before now, I’ve never seen Tim be anything but sincere. Mike thought it was a good idea, poorly executed. Carl thought it was straight-up awful.

Mike was also conflicted about Radio Shack being called by the 80s. He felt it was a good spot, but in his own words, “Too bad a commercial can’t actually get me to their terrible store.”

The Worst

Here’s a line I could copy and paste into every Super Bowl roundup we’ve ever written. “GoDaddy’s commercial was awful.” Like my hero Richard Sherman once said, “When you pick a sorry registrar like GoDaddy, that’s the result you’re going to get.” Or something to that effect.

At least this year the GoDaddy commercials were slightly less awful than normal, and managed more inclusiveness by objectifying both men and women. That’s progress.

Mike’s uncontested pick for the worst ads of the 2014 Super Bowl went to Budweiser’s A Hero’s Welcome and Puppy Love spots. Don’t get me wrong, every veteran deserves a parade like the one they threw for Chuck Nadd, and interspecies friendships are adorable. But as Mike put it, “in advertising, using war veterans and puppies is cheating.”

Weigh In

Think we got it wrong? Didn’t give GoDaddy a fair chance? Totally misinterpreted the meaning of Tim Tebow? Then tell us in a comment, or leave us a nasty message on Facebook. We’re adults, we can take it.

Why Snapchat Had No Choice But to Apologize


Snapchat, the app that allows you to view images for seconds before they disappear, turned down a $3 billion buyout from Facebook last fall (despite the fact that they have absolutely no revenue). Now they might be kicking themselves.

They made a big mistake.

They messed up. They goofed. The company that’s built entirely on a promise of privacy for photos and phone numbers got hacked on New Year’s Eve. 4.6 million panicked users later, they had a PR nightmare on their hands.

Getting hacked is pretty awful, but most people realize, a company never wants that outcome, it just happens.

The real issue: Snapchat didn’t address the situation appropriately. In fact, users felt that initially, Snapchat accepted shutterstock_132591887none of the responsibility.

It took about a week, and after the CEO failed to apologize on the Today show, the company finally apologized in a blog post. “We are sorry for any problems this issue may have caused you and we really appreciate your patience and support.”

Thanks Snapchat. But is it too little too late?

 Your behavior in times of crisis reaches further than your customers, it impacts your investors too. Especially potential investors that have been watching Snapchat pretty carefully since the billion-dollar turndown.

When a major flop like this happens, we say, admit it, and make your customers feel like their feelings matter. It’s not about who’s at fault; it’s about how you approach the situation and its solution.

Pride can be very flattering, but arrogance doesn’t look great on anyone. Your job is to make sure your product delivers on its promise. If you fall short on delivery, it might be wise to bring in some pros.

What’s the lesson?

The takeaway from all of this is that Snapchat could learn a thing or two about being honest, upfront and apologetic to their customers.

They could even take a page from Lululemon, who faced a potential PR disaster last year when they failed to address an unfortunate situation of see-through yoga pants properly. Their stock plummeted, and they promptly apologized, fixed the issue and, now, they are back on track.

It turns out, transparency can be a good thing.

The (Hard) Life of Alex




We’re often accused of having, to put it bluntly, too much fun at Echo-Factory.  Today, we’re here to put those fears to rest.  In fact, just the other week our very own account manager, Alex Dunstan, took time out of his busy work schedule to perform a valuable public service.  Namely: racing around the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway on several brand new motorcycles, and telling us which was his favorite.

Alex performed this bit of selfless drudgery on behalf of Motorcycle USA, in the service of their “2014 Triple-Cylinder Street Bike Shootout.”  He endured literally hours of testing the latest 3-cylinder sportbikes from Triumph, MV Agusta and Yamaha.

After tireless testing and serious deliberation, Alex chose the Triumph Street Triple 675 as his top pick in the category.  You’ll have to head over to Motorcycle USA and read the article to find out why.

Echo-Factory Becomes Part of Fashion History (Again!)


Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 10.17.19 AM

A look through our site indicates pretty quickly that we’re no stranger to fashion. From the early days of Matisse shoes to lunch bags and protective gear, if you can wear it, we’ve worked with it.

We’re also pretty pro when it comes to startups and small companies working to figure things out. We love strategy and helping brands grow into something they can be proud of, and usually, we’re pretty proud too.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 10.19.56 AMSo, when Mike met Gordon McDougall at an investor meeting in Pasadena, he thought Gordon’s business model sounded like a great fit for Echo-Factory. Think perfect storm.

Gordon explained that Bitzio, a mobile app company, was transitioning into a fashion acquisition company. The plan was simple: find emerging apparel brands with a few years of success behind them, but with capital and resource barriers that prevented growth. Then, help these brands grow into strong voices within the fashion industry. He wanted to make fashion a democracy, where there is strength in unity and sustainability through diversity.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 10.19.14 AMGordon built a team of experts and transformed a struggling mobile app company into a fashion apparel acquisition company that is certain to disrupt the industry as we know it.

Sounds pretty great, right? It gets better. Luckily for us, Bitzio needed an marketing agency. So we got to work.

We came up with a new name: Democratique, fashion brands for the people, by the people.

Then we built a website, gave them a fresh new logo and tagline and helped write some relevant blogs. Things were coming together pretty quickly.

When we learned Bitzio was planning to head the LD Micro Conference to announce the launch of Democratique, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to get the word out.

So we designed some collateral material, including postcards and brochures.

With lots of hard work and collaboration, our new client is looking great.

Ron Burgundy & Durangos: Coming Clean


Everything is great about Dodge’s Durango ad campaign featuring Will Ferrell, including Burgundy coming clean on Conan.

Somewhere in Detroit an executive let their agency take a risk, and with Durango sales up 59% since the campaign started, I think it’s safe to say that it was a risk worth taking.

Get Your Great Ideas Out There


Great Ideas Are Easy, Great Execution Is Hard



  The Lightbulb

Many of us have a notebook of inventions, the next awesome app, or even scraps of the Great American Novel floating around. Ideas are great, because they don’t cost anything. Plus, to get more, all you have to do is think. Once you’ve got that great idea fleshed out, what’s the next step?


Enter the Challenge Blog_Icons_Exclamation_Mark

Remarkably, the idea is certain to be the easiest part of getting your business off the ground. How you approach the next steps in the process truly determines the success of the project. So, be prepared to put in a lot of thought, hard work, and money into making your idea a reality.



Put it on Paper

Talking about an idea is good start, but writing it down is key. We don’t mean on  the back of a napkin in a coffee shop; we mean putting all the details down on paper, the financials, the goals, the product concepts. It’s all important and worth getting it onto a page.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, ideas are much more likely to be taken seriously when they progress from “I had this thought” and arrive in “Look at this outline.” Second, in terms of potential investors, there is comfort in the tangible, so even if your ideas aren’t complete, something in writing is reassuring.


 Clarify the Concept

Work out as many of the unsolved questions as possible. At this point, it’s a good idea to think about your product or service at its core. Make sure the basic idea is complete and simple enough to understand, so that you can answer what it’s about in one sentence or less.

At this stage, it’s good to notice if there are too many holes in the project or if people aren’t as stoked as you are. Issues of uncertainty can be a sign the idea might not be the right one, or you need to rethink what you’re after.



Concentrate on Details, But Not too Much

Even if working out the details is only for yourself, a clear and concise plan is always a good idea. Don’t embarrass yourself or investors by not knowing enough about your own product. When the answer to a question is “I hadn’t thought of that”, you’ve got a lot more work to do.

That being said, it’s okay to adjust and readjust details throughout the process. Don’t be a victim to inflexibility and lose sight of the bigger picture.


Prematurely Spread the WordBlog_Icons_Teach

Don’t wait until after the launch to see where the product lands; make some noise so it lands where you want. This means building a brand the product or service during  its concept stages.

Do the necessary market research, create a good story and put the hype in the right minds. It’s a lot of work, but an invisible marketing plan catches no one’s eye.


Blog_Icons_TargetTake the Plunge

Realize that you’re ready and don’t wait for some mystical sign. All the preparation work is important, but it’s impossible to be ready for everything. Don’t let hypothetical concerns hold you back. Launch with an open mind and a willingness to listen and adjust.



Blog_Icons_LikeCelebrate, Then Get Back to Work

You’ve launched your product, now just let the bucks roll in. Eh… not quite. It’s time to improve it, watch the response, readjust, and continue to wow your customers through hard work. You do have our permission to celebrate a little bit though.

Want to Add Value to Your Product? Just Tell a Story


A Great Way to Drive Your Product Value Way Up? Tell A Story.

What makes an article of clothing, or an electronic device special? It’s generally not the object itself; it’s the story attached to that object.

And that same concept works in the business world too. A compelling story sells products, and even more importantly, a good story allows businesses to create value for their product according to that narrative.

How many times has a story been the driving force behind a purchase?

It’s probably more often than you think. A recent social experiment proved attaching a story to an object can drive the actual price up ten fold.

It becomes pretty clear pretty quickly, there is enormous value in story.

Think About It

Often times, a company calculates their prices by examining the cost of the product and services, the price competitors charge, target demographic or a combination of all components. However, toss in some solid story, and you can add a personal human value to your products that becomes priceless.

Blogger Ty Montague explains, “In a world of abundance, what your product does for your customers is important, but not nearly as important as what your product means to them. And this second part — the story of your product — is what yields the greatest pricing power of all.”

In other words, story is what allows companies to create serious amounts of value for products that are meaningful to both the creator and the consumer.

So, our advice is to take advantage of that story. Chances are, your product has a story. Use it.

Ways to Get There

1. Personal Story: Use an experience to explain how you created or improved the product you’re offering.

Example: The college guys behind Harry’s razors were tired of choosing between paying a lot for a razor or sacrificing a good shave. They thought about the things that were important in the shaving experience: a good blade, an ergonomic handle, shaving cream with quality ingredients and a fair price. They spent a year teaming with German engineers and shaving cream companies designing and testing the perfect products. Finally, they were satisfied with their contribution to the shaving world. So they decided to sell directly from their website,  kept costs low and share the story as much as possible.

2. Historical Story: Humans are instantly fascinated with mythology. So a product mythology is an easy and fantastic way to create interest and loyalty.

Example: The purpose of a watch is to tell time. A watch that costs five dollars at K-Mart can tell time, but there is no story behind the watch. An Omega watch on the other hand, tells time, but it also offers a history of dive voyages, space landings and it happens to be the watch 007 trusts. That’s why Omega can charge thousands of dollars.

3. Human Context: Give products a life in terms of their relationship to users. The story might not even be about the objects, but they give the objects context in terms of everyday use.

Example: A pair of underwear costs about $5.00. Elvis’ underwear: $15,000.00. Enough said.

The lesson from all this is that meaning matters.