Brands that Create Worlds

One of the highest compliments one can give a filmmaker is that he or she has created a fully realized world for us to inhabit for two hours or so. One where every detail is thought through to be part of a larger universe that has its own rules, its own topography, its unique set of flora and fauna. A world you don’t want to leave as the end credits crawl up the screen, signalling the transition back into our own daily lives.

When James Cameron made Titanic, it’s purported that he reproduced every china pattern and piece of silverware with his large and talented team of production designers. Whether you’re a viewer or a cast or crew member, you’re never taken out of the “world” of that ship and those particular classes of people interacting at that unique time in history.

On a smaller scale, when you go to a restaurant like the popular place in my neighbourhood called The Oxley, or when I recently visited the Nomad Hotel’s lounge in New York City, you notice the attention they’ve paid to all of the details, that everything is part of a tapestry that envelopes you, with nothing out of place. Nothing takes you out of the “narrative” of that place. Everything, including the uniquely fin de siècle lamp fixtures above the doorway – has been carefully considered.

Likewise, for those of us who take part in creating brands and/or extending brands into new domains, the same holistic thinking and attention to detail is a must. We want to create encompassing worlds that have a rhyme and reason to everything, where every facet seems to radiate out from the same glorious fixed point. Any Apple store is designed to be just such an experience.

And again, on a more intimate scale, a good friend of mine who has supremely good taste, Steve Teruggi of Winkreative, took me to a denim and indigo store in Manhattan called 45 RPM that had exactly this quality. From the front entrance all the way to the restrooms in the basement, every square inch of that store was designed to project the courtyard of a Japanese Buddhist temple – the panels of rice paper framed by light wood, the eaves of the temple boasting expensive dark red roof tiles lining a wall festooned with clothing, the crisp smell of cedar as you run your fingers through the deep indigo jeans that are unique to this store. A powerful, encompassing experience that I’ll never forget – and that I’m looking forward to experiencing again.

And by the way, I spent a pretty penny on jeans during that visit, so yes, there’s a monetary impact to creating a world around a brand idea. Happily, this is where a CMO and CFO may be able to find complete alignment.