StoryScaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds

This article is based on the book “StoryScaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating World” by Gaston Legorburu (Author), and Darren McColl. >>>

Who this book is for:

The innovative entrepreneur who wants to start creating more effective marketing campaigns beyond just buying ineffective ads just like everybody else.

The BIG Idea


We will show examples from the toy industry for our explanation. >>>

Priced- Based Differentiation

We won’t dwell too much time on here. You can buy a blue doll made in China for $7.99. You’d probably buy it for a kid you don’t know very well or don’t care much about.

Story-Based Differentiation

Example: Cabbage Patch Kids craze of the 1980s. These dolls were the same as most other dolls. They didn’t talk nor make any sounds. They didn’t have any computer chips in them. They didn’t flash any lights. They didn’t have any bells and whistles. They were not better than any other doll.

So what made them different? One word: STORY. Each doll had to be “adopted”. This meant that not only was there a story behind it, the buyer became the central hero of this story: an altruistic hero in fact. Buying these dolls was a statement of values more than just buying a random toy. It became about being part of a community of other altruistic heroes. It made it more about the buyer than the product itself.

Similar examples are pet rocks and the tamagotchi digital pets from Japan.

Experience-Based Differentiation

Example: Build-a-Bear Store

That store takes appointment. Yes! A toy store that takes appointments? Imagine that! Crazy, right?

They have mastered the art of creating immersive experiences. What differentiates them is that you get to create and customizes your very own teddy bear from scratch: you get to pick the right piece of soft fur, your preferred “squishiness” and even giving it life with its own very heart (that you can kiss for good wishes before it’s popped inside your new friend).

After that you get to select the perfect outfit to take it home. You can even a sound, and finally, the cherry on top of this magical experience: you get to give your new best friend a name

Who could possibly deny their kid an experience like this?

The drawback is that it’s easy to replicate this. For example, nowadays there are several online companies that even offer to turn your child’s drawings into custom stuffed animals or custom softies.

StoryScaping Differentiation

Example: American Girl

These dolls initially taught American history. They each came with historically accurate storybooks detailing their life.

There was much built-in entertainment with the aftermarket sales of doll accessories and clothing.

Eventually, there were more than 50 dolls, all with stories from all over the world in practically every ethnicity. Every little girl could identify on a physical level that mirrored her, that told her tale.

Today, there are American Girl restaurants to dine in, and American Girl salons where you and your dolls can get makovers. Their 5th Avenue location in Manhatta is a veritable hotbed of frenzied birthday party waiting lists.

You can browse the entire catalog on your iPad and download American Girl diary apps to your iPod.

There are real-life fashion shows of these dolls and their owners.

Doll owners heavily travel the social media space to share couture doll ensembles or to show off impressive collections of dolls that are on and off the market like antiques and artwork.

In 2012, American Girl reported millions of visitors annually, with sales at $100.5 million. Their website gets more than 70 million hits annually.

Most Important Concept in the book:

“American Girl has a story with no periods, just commas.”

This is an example of a StoryScape: Not just one story and not just one experience, but multiple stories and experiences in a StorySystem that amplify each other and thus amplify the value of the brand:

“If you provide great value and create a great experience, you will improve your story.

If you have a great story and you provide a great experience, you amplify your value.

The same goes for value and price. If you provide a great experience (product) and have a great story (brand), you should be able to merit higher value (price).”

Another great example of a company using the StoryScaping model is Omaze, startup that connects non-profits with influencers and donors:

1. Telling good stories about who they are helping.

2. Putting you, the donor, into the center of a remarkable story yourself by giving you the opportunity to win the experience of a lifetime for as little as $10 (instead of the $15,000 charity auctions normally are at).

3. The charity makes far more than $15,000 because millions of donors get motivated to donate $10.

4. Influencers get to promote the causes they care about.

Win-win for everybody!

The 4 Strategic Pillars of StoryScaping

Brand Purpose (Big Why)+Consumer Desires and Need +Product (Functional Benefit) connected through shared experiences and shared values creates a “Hero’s Journey” for the customer through which your product forms an important part of your customer’s journey or story as illustrated in the 2 pictures below:

A brand’s embodiment and expression of its purpose causes a desire in the client or consumer to emotionally connect with it by buying into not only the brand’s story but also it’s products and services.

These products and services also define the means by which consumers define their own story. This connection between a thing or form of utility and a person creates a shared experience.

Some brands are great at connecting emotionally with story whereas others deliver great products and build environments and things for great experiences.

The goal of the StoryScaping model is to create a world for both, where shared stories exist as a Storyscape.

There’s also a second mind-map after this one which shows how to apply StoryScaping to your business.

And 2 important points to note:

1. Start seeing your company or business as a BRAND.

2. Stop calling your clients/customers/consumers “users” or “audience”.

Doing so implies that they are passive watchers of your story or users of utility, instead of being engaged and participatory.

We are looking to create shared experiences beyond the story, immersive experiences that change behavior; therefore “targeting an audience” sets up the wrong premise from the start.

These people create so much of your content, have such powerful influence, and actually control their interaction within your Experience Space.

They are people. They are actual human beings.

“These are the very people defining, creating and building their story through the acquisition of products and services.”

To me, that line in the book is probably the most important one because it’s such a breakthrough idea!

They are not just trying to satisfy a desire or overcome a challenge or heal a heart-break/pain.

They are trying to leave their old story and create a new one!!

This is huge!!

This is why making your story of success or healing become their story too is so important!!

Remember: you or your brand is not the hero of the story. Your customer/client if the hero of the Story. You are actually the Mentor or Yoda of the story. Your product is the boon or Elixir that help them complete their quest and return triumphant!!

The Main takeaways regarding these 4 pillars are:

1. Make your story THEIR story by co-creating transformative immersive experiences that empower them to create their own inspiring versions of your inspiring story. You do this by realizing that you’re not the hero of their story. THEY are. You are not Luke Skywalker. THEY are. You are Yoda AND you are George Lukas at the same time. I have always seen myself as Yoda for a long time. What’s been missing was that I am also their George Lukas!

2. Create a Story-System or ‘World’ of multiple stories so that you go from storytelling to story-experiencing all the way to story-making. Thus, experience, story and value amplify each other.

Now that we understand all this, we are ready for the next step:

The Organizing Idea

This may be one of the most important ideas of the book that no other book marketing book has mentioned as far as I know.

The 4 Strategic Pillars form the basis of the Organizing Idea. Add that to the “Experience Space” = “StoryScape”.

There is a difference between the Big Idea and the Organizing Idea, both of which are important and have a relationship with each other. Watch Video Number 5, “Organizing Idea”, for an explanation.

I think this is a KEY concept that’s missing even from Simon Sinek’s presentation “Start with Why”. In fact, the authors mention Simon Sinek’s work in their book.

It’s almost like the Organizing Idea provides the missing piece in Simon Sinek’s work — the HOW. How do you implement your BIG WHY once you know it? The Organizing idea is an important piece towards implementation AND it can generate even more Big ideas!

The authors define an Organizing Idea as “an active statement that defines what the brand must do to change consumer behavior. It inspires the type of experiences that are created through the StoryScape.”

An Organizing idea is not a big idea.

A big idea is the creative expression or the OMG experience that delivers on an Organizing Idea.

For example: Red Bull

Red Bull creates amazing content with really big ideas — such as a guy riding a balloon to space.

That is a big idea but it is not an Organizing Idea.

However, their many big ideas such as the one above is the result of their Organizing Idea which is: “Take Flight”. This is beautifully expressed as “RedBull Gives you Wings”. This Organizing Idea neatly organizes all the brand’s activities and big ideas such as Joyride, Cliff Drivine and X Game sponsorships which are all linked to its Organizing Idea: “Take Flight.”

Another example is Coca-Cola’s Organizing Idea: “Open Happiness”.

Another one is ESPN’s X-Games: “Activate Awesome”. This helps deliver on the Brand Purpose: “Bring New and Go Huge”.

In the case of my own company, “Phoenix Awakening”, the Organizing Idea is “Revolutionary Rebirth”.

Important questions to ask to determine your Organizing Idea

  • Does it organize? Does it clearly give you a premise to organize how consumers will connect with the story?
  • Does it help define the role of the channels you will use?
  • When you hear it, do you feel like it activates behavior? You’re looking to stimulate an experience for consumers: these experiences require a behavior.
  • Is the Organizing Idea, along with its associated projected experiences, delivering on the Brand Purpose? Is the expected emotional connection in line with the Brand Cause, Purpose or Belief?
  • Brands are more than messages; a brand is a personification of a company. This personification should make you more likeable, memorable, and desirable for consumers. Similarly, an Organizing Idea should be in sync with and even proponent of the brand’s tone and style. You can easily and quickly ask yourself, “Does it sound like the brand would say this?”
  • Remember, the goal is to inspire immersive experiences. When you think about your Organizing Idea, do you instantly feel like you can create an experience that will deliver the behavior?
  • Finally, a Storyscaping is about building a world of immersive experiences and participation. An Organizing Idea is a Core Platform of Experience, and as such, it needs to see particiaption, either overtly or through likely behaviors: Does the Organizing Idea have the potential to inspire experiences where people involve the brand in their stories?

What to Avoid when Creating Your Organizing Idea

  • Don’t use a proposition. Your Organizing Idea is an expression that inspires and changes behavior — not an offer that aims to manipulate. So don’t use phrases like “Buy 1, Get 1 Free”.
  • Don’t use a bland or obvious statement.
  • Don’t let it be a description of the consumer’s world or desires such as “I seek balance.”
  • “The principle purpose for and the creation of an Organizing Idea requires a fundamental shift in perspective. It’s a the very center of StoryScaping because it enables the development of connections for StorySystems and helps define channels, points of engagement, story dimensions, priorities, and experience opportunities.”

Read the book to dive deeper into this. Now’s let go to the next main part of the StoryScaping Model:

The Experience Space

What’s critical to understand about the above spreadsheet is that the ‘singposts’ resemble traditional ads for the most part — except they never end with a period. They always lead somewhere else, which is why they need to end with a comma.

Indeed, even the stories in the StorySystem are full of commas, connected to other stories. For enhanced effect, you can even apply the cliffhanger techniques sometimes, ending every episode ending with cliffhanger scene that generates curiosity about what’s going to happen next.

Now, we have the complete model:

The following 2 pictures show the result we are aiming for:

Further Resources

Watch this video playlist below of 7 videos that explain all this in more detail:

Click here to watch a slideshare presentation of the StoryScaping Model.

About the Author Kundan Chhabra

Kundan Chhabra is the creator of Emotional Alchemy, a technique to transform emotional pain and its accompanying baggage into fuel for passion and life purpose. He does this through his unique Breakthrough Awakening, the consciousness technology he developed to lead workshop participants through the six levels of self-knowledge.

This approach to healing grew out of Kundan’s lengthy struggle with deep feelings of loneliness, sadness, confusion, powerlessness, which resulted in his feeling trapped and suicidal.

Kundan’s essays have been published in Elephant Journal, and in the book, “Love Like God: Embracing Unconditional Love.” He has led workshops at TEDxUCIrvine, the Goddess Temple of Orange County, Unity of Tustin and Common Ground Spiritual Center.

You can get his course, “7 Keys to Resolve Conflicts in Relationships” at DailyOm.Com

Kundan Chhabra currently helps his clients make Peace with the Story of their Struggle and Suffering by uncovering their Greatest Gift that’s been hidden in the very story they feel trapped in. He then helps them become so grounded in their Gifts that they become Visionary Masters of their Destiny. He is here to nurture the planet’s next trailblazing Change-Makers and Game-Changers.

Kundan Chhabra is writing an upcoming book on the three Stages of Spirituality called “Phoenix Awakening: How to Make Peace with your Story, Uncover Your Greatest Gift and Co-Create the World of our Dreams”.

He is the founder and host of the Facebook Community, Phoenix Awakening. Join us.

And Now: How does all this benefit you? Here is my personal statement directly to you regarding all this:

I help Awakened Visionary Leaders and Change-makers ready for growth who desire deep visibility for their Message. The biggest pain they feel is not feeling deeply seen, heard and felt.

Not being deeply seen creates a lot of fear: the fear that they will never be deeply seen, that therefore life will never have meaning and they will always feel trapped.

This creates so much anger and frustration which in turn creates even more fear, especially fear of the anger itself and what other people would think of the anger, especially when anger is very misunderstood in our culture.

It’s a horrible feedback loop, exacerbated by the Freedom, Expansiveness and Spaciousness they felt in their Awakening experiences, which they were not able to sustain, thus leaving them with a longing for that Freedom to be reflected in the world. (That’s why they became Change-makers).

So I help them break free from this feedback loop of fear, frustration and anger that they feel trapped in by helping them feel deeply seen, heard and felt, at multiple levels of depth

(and also by clarifying and validating their Sacred Rage, and differentiating between the 4 types of anger, which again, is part of truly SEEING them for the first time, like NO ONE ever has).

Creator of "the Alignment Code" & “Mental Kung Fu” for deep long-term fulfillment+clear boundaries: helping visionaries express their most meaningful idea yet!