How World Building can take your brand to the next level

February 25, 2021 • 3 minute read

Building a better future for brands 

Brands today are held accountable by a more connected, discerning, and influential consumer. In an era where every word and action is scrutinized, marketers now need to consider not just how brands are perceived, but how they will be perceived.  

It requires more than a finger on the pulse of today. We must also look forward—to anticipate the future and be ready for less obvious eventualities. This has been proven more than ever in the last two years and is especially true in B2B, where buyer journeys can take months and even years to play out. 

This ability to envision the future has long played an important role in science fiction writing, giving rise to a discipline now widely known as World Building. 

We believe the principles of World Building can be adapted to help brands imagine possibilities outside of their immediate reality, and to develop ideas and experiences that will stand the test of time.

World Building and the power of “What if?”

World Building was initially born out of fantasy and sci-fi literature as a means for writers to create vibrant environments for their stories to inhabit. Today, its principles have been extended into a range of commercial applications, sparking innovations in policies, business models, and marketable technologies.

Take Ford, whose City of Tomorrow has engaged hundreds of leaders from government, business, and academia to explore next generation solutions for how people will move in the cities of the future. 

World Building defines a place to the extent that we can empathize with the inhabitants and their issues. It helps us formulate important “What if?” questions that challenge assumptions and drive us to action. 

These “What if?” questions enable us to think beyond the immediate facts, and open up new perspectives on our future. When these questions speak honestly to the issues we face today, we can elicit perspectives with a real-world application. 

We’re now using aspects of World Building to create a different lens for thinking, one through which we can help clients to anticipate future issues and opportunities, and focus creativity. 

Looking forward with purpose

A rock solid Purpose, Vision, and Mission are synonymous with many of the world’s most valuable brandsand with good reason. Done well, these vital assets galvanize the entire organization, positively influencing everything from corporate culture to customer experiences.  

The very best examples share two qualities which are particularly important in the context of World Building. First, they demonstrate an innate understanding of the customers’ world, and the role the brand has to play in shaping that world for the better. Secondly, they are inherently aspirational—they look to what could be.

World Building provides a framework to help us anticipate future markets and needs. It can inspire vision, mission, and purpose statements that are as ambitious as they are meaningful to the audiences that they serve.

Out of this world campaigns

Like the best stories, the best campaigns create a rich and immersive world for us to explore. Campaign planning may not seem like an obvious application for World Building, given the relatively short lifespan of most initiatives. But with some adaptation, the techniques can still deliver valuable insights and ideas. 

For starters, World Building helps us to challenge our assumptions. It’s all too easy to overlook important issues, even when they are staring you in the face (remember Pepsi’s Kendal faux-pas?). And to be tonally bullet proof, you need to have a read on both where customer sentiment is now, and where it’s likely headed. 

World Building helps us to envision the future more vividly. Though we may not be looking years ahead, we can better anticipate what a customer might do, think, and need in the short term—and be ready to meet them with the most relevant and engaging experiences, wherever they are in their journey.

A convention for unconventional thinking 

As strategic partners to our clients, we’re often called upon to help them conceive and shape future capabilities. Like many of the world’s leading organizations, we see the value of World Building as a catalyst for product and service innovations.

Effective innovation demands real empathy with audiences, a clear definition of the problems that they face, and an ability to challenge the status quo. 

World Building leverages what we know today to yield insights into the future lives of target audiences, uncovering unmet needs and opportunities for innovation. Through this structured process we can trigger unconventional thinking to anticipate the future circumstances from which truly original ideas will spring.

Ready to build a better future for your brand? Get in touch.

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