More often than not, a story contains multiple stories, like a nesting doll made out of words. Your brand world is built the same way, but instead of stories within stories, you’re looking at worlds within worlds.
A note on brand worldbuilding
This is the act of creating a branded world for your customers to "step into" whenever they interact with your brand. It’s continuously putting out consistent content that customers will come to recognize as yours, from color scheme to messaging.
Brand worldbuilding fosters a sense of community and breeds customer loyalty.
If you want to dive deeper into this concept, check out our brand worldbuilding blog.
Overarching brand world
You want your brand world to be thoroughly developed and engrossing. If your brand world is flimsy, it won’t be able to sustain sub-worlds.
Sub-worlds should fit neatly into your overarching brand world, matching in tone and style, like chapters of the same book. Again, consistency is key.
What constitutes a sub-world is up to interpretation. Some might consider branded podcasts or blogs sub-worlds because they are separate entities but exist inside the brand world as a whole.
Take, for instance, "Radio Headspace," a Headspace podcast and sub-world. If you’re not familiar with Headspace, it’s an online company specializing in mindfulness and meditation. (They have an app as well.) Its world is warm and peaceful, its messaging thoughtful. It’s a space for relaxation and calm.
Radio Headspace maintains that grounding and calming feel. Gently uplifting instrumentals play in the background of each episode, like you’re in a yoga class, the speaker covering topics such as patience and acceptance.
Radio Headspace is its own world with its own listeners, but it effortlessly and seamlessly fits within the main Headspace world.
Your brand world should never be hollow. Fill it with meaningful, relevant content to satisfy your audience, and use sub-worlds to increase the value of your overarching brand world.
Learning from literature
When you think of marketing, you likely don’t think of literature, yet storytelling marketing is the talk of the town. What better way to learn how to be a good storyteller and build a complex brand world than between the pages of a book.
Think of the last work of fiction you read. You probably can describe its world—setting, tone, themes, etc.—and the central narrative well.
Now think of the subplots and characters. They contribute to the central narrative but are able to stand on their own because they're stories in and of themselves.
To recognize the stories within stories and within characters gives them power. You can then use them to advance the plot—move the story forward—or plant clues to foreshadow events to come.
Maybe it’s a romance, and the main plot is the love blooming between two characters, but one of them, let’s call her Sam, is struggling with the death of a relative. Perhaps Sam’s grief throws a wrench in her relationship at first, but as the story continues, she learns how to cope and ends the story with a new lease on life.
For the purpose of this we can call that subplot the “grief plot.” Without it, the main plot would look completely different.
Similarly, what if Sam has a brother. That brother has a story that, even if not detailed in the central narrative, affects how he interacts with the world and with Sam. It’s a great big web, every detail important.
By taking this example and studying it through the lens of brand worldbuilding, we learn that details matter and that sub-worlds are powerful, affecting the overarching brand world while still being able to stand alone.