The ROI of Storytelling

In Social Media Marketing and Content Marketing, an often discussed question is the ROI. Can we measure the ROI of Social Media? What is a good ROI to justify spending money and time on content? In the end, it is the ROI that counts, but some doubt that you can measure the ROI of storytelling, content marketing, and social media.

I came across a beautiful example of the possibilities for ROI with great storytelling. In this case, not only the story is entertaining, the numbers speak for themselves as well.

And here is the story:

A few weeks ago I came across a young man who wanted to sell his old car on Ebay. How did I find this guy? One of my Facebook friends shared an article about him in the German Huffington Post. The story sounded interesting, and I took a closer look.

The background:

This young man had an old OPEL Tigra manufactured in 1997. And he wanted to sell it on Ebay.

So far so not interesting.

But instead of simply stating dry facts about the car in the description of his auction on Ebay, this guy told a story – and what a story!

About his girlfriend being pregnant and insisting on his selling the car because it is too small for a family. About him hastily filling the dishwasher to sooth is girlfriend with “15 spoons – why can we not use our spoons more than once”; about his girlfriend getting ready for watching 50 Shades of Grey – “honestly why are women so naive – the film could be over after 20 minutes if she would just say no and stick to it”; about his “Too Fast and Too Furious” encounter with the police at age 18; about women and shoes and how shoes we never wear can be rated a bargain, just because they were on sale? He writes about the downsides of the car: The engine is making funny noises. The leather seats are worn (he is not telling how he is responsible for the backseats being especially worn ;)). About the fact that you cannot read the clock or the temperature – but who needs that anyway, we all know how cold it is in good old Germany! He writes about his relationship with his father and his friend who advises him to sell the car to a hobby car enthusiast as it is neither new or very good.

It is a long, very personal and very entertaining story.

Can we measure the ROI of Storytelling? Some doubt that you can measure the ROI of storytelling. Here is an example where you can.The power of a story

The story was so entertaining that not only Huffington Post Germany (where I found it) picked it up. I found the story on several other German news sites – even Swedish Aftonbladet wrote about it. Rarely has an auction of an old car on Ebay gotten more attention since that VW Golf, which originally belonged to Pope Ratzinger and sold for almost 190 thousand Euros…

Ebay blocked the auction

Ebay obviously could not believe the power of the story and stopped the auction for fear of something fishy going on. After all, how could an ancient OPEL Tigra gather so much traffic?

The auction was reopened with the same text and ended on Feb 25th, 2015.

How about the ROI of Storytelling

This post is supposed to be about the ROI of storytelling. So I did a little research on what a car like this (type, year of manufacturing, mileage, etc.) usually costs and found many offers ranging from 300€ (~350$) to 1000€ (~1150$). My guess is that 2000€ (~2300$) would have been a pretty good price for this Opel Tigra. And considering the car had no famous former owners or any other extras apart from the great story in the offer, my conclusion is that every cent the car brought more than 2000€ was due to the great story told.

Since the auction finished with an incredible amount of 55750€ (~64300$) that is an ROI of Storytelling of over 53000€ for just this one story. Since the story included around 3200 words, this sums up to an ROI of almost 17€ (~20$) per word!


And that ROI does not even end here. The author noted in the comments of the auction that he is currently in negotiation with an editor about publishing a book. So apart from raising the value of his car multiple times, this guy hopefully also landed a new job – all with one good story told. That is a hell of an ROI of storytelling!

(Unfortunately the auction was on Ebay Germany, and the story told in German. If you want to read it in German or use Google translate, you can still find it here.)

This article was proofread and edited by myself with the help of Grammarly. If you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.

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  • Ricky Hsu

    Most of the ROI of storytelling is hard to measure because of its indirectness. Looks like the idea of this article is that once you really push the storytelling part serendipity could happen.

  • Bill Carroll


  • Bart De Pelsmaeker

    This is such an incredible story! I was so delighted to come across this piece and read a new perspective on brand storytelling that I covered it in a post I wrote also addressing the ROI of brand storytelling ( Thanks for the translation of this fantastic story, Susanna — Great post!


    Stories make your target audience interested in your product. So stop selling; start engaging. Sales will happen in the due course. – SunjoyKRG