Why building worlds can build your brand

With the release of a new documentary looking at worldbuilding and its impact on audiences and culture, we speak to the film's director, Bexy Cameron, about her interest in this area and the power of worldbuilding for brands.

Published by: Shots
Written by: Shots Staff
Date: 27/04/2023

A new documentary has just been released by creative agency Amplify which investigates the creative practice of worldbuilding.

The film explores how the people behind some of the world’s biggest brands, including Lego and Dune producer Legendary Entertainment, tug at the fabric of reality to immerse audiences into different worlds.

Called Escape Into: The Evolution of Worldbuilding, the film is directed by filmmaker, author and activist Bexy Cameron and features insights from creators, brand leaders and cultural influencers, while exploring how they impact modern culture. The documentary looks at elements from Margaret Atwood predicting America’s future in The Handmaid’s Tale to the impact of Disney’s soon-to-be released remake of The Little Mermaid on the next generation.

“What started out as an exploration into creativity became so much more than that," said Cameron. "We started to see the links between creative worldbuilding and themes with real world value and meaning, between writers and political movements, between fashion and shifts in culture, between filmmakers and family values. It's when creativity meets purpose and emotional resonance that worldbuilding becomes alive.”

The film will be aired on Amplify’s dedicated digital worldbuilding hub and will be followed by an eight-part series of short films deep-diving into how worldbuilding operates in different spaces including film, music and fashion. The agency is also launching a new book, called Worldbuilding; the evolution of brand building, which examines the core principles of worldbuilding.

“From Marvel to Disney World and from Netflix to Fortnite, worldbuilding is a tool that writers, filmmakers, and entertainers have long used to create compelling and engaging narratives and environments for ideas, characters and stories to live in - and an approach that has never been more relevant for brand building now and in future," said Jonathan Emmins, Founder and Global CEO at Amplify. "As with much of Amplify's work, with worldbuilding we draw as much inspiration from the culture and creative communities as we do from pioneering brands. Whether they are local or global, to be discovered or already iconic, we believe these pioneers lead the charge and provide valuable lessons for brands embarking on their own worldbuilding journeys.

What initially got you interested in the topic of worldbuilding?

For me, it started with film and literature. Michel Gondry is one of my favourite worldbuilders and I looked at how he could create worlds that existed on top of the real world, but could also change how you looked at your own life with masterpieces like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I started a master's in Creative Writing last year which really opened my mind to literary worldbuilders. Once you start to see the formulas between film and literature, you see them everywhere.

How, if at all, does worldbuilding differ from branding?

Worldbuilding, to me, offers an escape of some kind for the person experiencing it. Branding - in its basic form - doesn't. The aesthetics, identity, values and storytelling of branding can all be part of worldbuilding, but it’s the ability to take a person into another world that makes worldbuilding more involved, collaborative, and all-encompassing.

Novels, TV and movies have always built worlds within their pages or frames but when did brands realise this was a tactic they could adopt?

This feels like a new strategy, it feels like brands are realising now that these elements which take people outside of themselves are important. There are clearly brands who have been working in these realms; Patagonia, Red Bull even Lego.

Do you think it's easier now, with so many available platforms and channels, to build a world consumers can lose themselves in?

If the original worldbuilding was done with pen and paper then I think all of these platforms and channels are extra added benefits. Of course, it's exciting to have new ways to build worlds, and because that's where audiences now live and spend their time, it makes sense for brands to utilise them.

Do you think the advent of the metaverse and AI has, or will, enable even more immersive worlds?

Yes, it came up time and time again that the future is hybrid. I think, with storytelling specifically, the human touch is absolutely needed but AI is enhancing everything.

Which commercial brands do you think have been successful at building immersive and lasting worlds for their consumers?

Patagonia sticks out to me; award-winning films, powerful messaging, beautiful storytelling and a global mission.

What was the most interesting or insightful thing you learned about how brands approach worldbuilding?

Brands can behave like polymaths to create worlds. Look at the original worldbuilders and think 'What would they do?', and think less like a brand.

How do you think worldbuilding will evolve in the coming years?

I think worldbuilding in the creative space is evolving daily; from where people take their inspiration, to shifts in culture, to platforms and mediums.

But the thing that I feel remains the same is where creativity and purpose live. This is where the most compelling and alive worlds will be.

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