Star Wars wins, or How to Measure the Value of a Great Story

Star Wars wins, or How to Measure the Value of a Great Story

Pop Quiz #1:

Name the main characters in the original Star Wars movie (total global box office receipts $775million) saga?

OK.  You know them all don’t you (especially if you were about 10 years old when it opened)

Pop Quiz #2:

Name the main characters in Avatar ($2.78billion)?  Or Inception ($825million)?   Or Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($1.12billion)?

Can you name even one?  No, “the blue guy” or “Leo” or “Megan Fox” do not count as answers.   What characters did they play?


By one conventional measure–total global box office receipts–Avatar is the most successful film of all-time.  The original Star Wars comes in at #56, behind Inception (47) and Dark of the Moon (11)

But by other measures such as cultural impact, affinity, recall, and your emotional connection to a film Star Wars tops them all.

Pop Quiz #3

What’s the quantitative value of great story telling?  What is it worth that we all know Luke, Han, Threepio, Artoo, Obi Wan, Chewy, Leia and Vader?

It’s a trick question because it’s the wrong one to ask.  A better question is:  Why bother in doing anything BUT tell great stories?  Why create crappy content at all?

Human beings are naturally inclined to remember and understand information that is presented in the context of a story, rather than as a list with no other context. Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self” found that “these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.”

You can develop metrics to quantify awareness, consideration, loyalty and halo effect, but in the end we know that people love, remember and share great stories.  Great stories move us to act and have the capacity to change our behavior.   And that’s worth a lot.

In fact, we’ve built an entire methodology on how to create great stories.  It’s called Story Comes First and you should check it out.