This article first appeared in Campaign Middle East written by, Junior Gonzalez, Senior Strategist at Imagination Dubai.

Never ever been seen, Out of this world, World-first, First-ever.

Sometimes the briefs we receive are looking for solutions, experiences and campaigns that have never been done before. On the same page, some clients ask to benchmark three to four similar experiences regionally and globally.

One tactic we have incorporated to bridge this gap between ‘never-before-seen’ and ‘benchmark’ is looking at other realities and universes. There are endless works of fiction to draw inspiration from – so why stop at what we have accomplished in the real world?

Out-of-the-box solutions require out-of-the-box thinking – that much is true. Now, how do you benchmark fictional worlds of stretchy pirates, galactic beings and reality-bending concepts?

Look beyond the protagonists

Most stories focus on only a few characters – only some background characters get a deep backstory that explains their motivations. However, there are a few vibrant worlds that allow for a more meaningful exploration of this type of characters.

Let’s take as an example the best-selling manga in history – One Piece. At face value, it’s a story about pirates and exploring the oceans, but each arc has a world to delve into, filled with complex incentives, plots and interesting motives.

One of the arcs takes place in Dressrosa – an island kingdom within the ‘New World’ of One Piece. Heavily influenced by real-life locations in Spain, how explicit the author is in detailing what life is like for the citizens of the destination would be very useful in benchmarking.

In the story, citizens of Dressrosa live under the brutal rule of one of the ‘Warlords of the Sea’ – a bombastic and sadistic captain called Donquixote Doflamingo.

But what if you were in that world – and needed to go out to dinner, even amidst war? Or buy new clothes? Or get a new plan for your cellphone? (in-universe – they are telepathic snails).

The protagonists eventually arrive to save the day – but in the meantime, imagine what it’s like for the ordinary citizens of Dressrosa to live, work and play the best they can in this place.

By exploring the world and its residents, we determine their fears, motivations and incentives. At Imagination, we have developed island destinations – figuring out their meaning, vision, and purpose, and are very often inspired by the culture of these fictional realms.

For instance – how literature influences citizens, how entertainment alleviates stress and how culture is grown, created and expanded.

Do a mundane task

It may seem odd – but one of the best ways to get inspiration from a fictional place is to try to do a very routine, mundane task in it. Such as taking out cash from an ATM, booking a reservation in a hotel or trying to get home after work.

For instance, let’s move away from the page and go to the screen – let’s pretend we are living in the universe of The Legend of Zelda – one of the most popular gaming franchises ever.

It’s a fantasy world in which evil must be defeated, and the hero must triumph. Again, this is a simple premise at a glance, but it contains multitudes of complexities regarding living, working and playing.

Hyrule – the usual primary location for the game, is where the hero is often found alongside an entire cast of supporting characters.

Imagine that you wake up in a house in Hyrule, and you have to take out a loan to fix the roof of your place since it got destroyed by a horde of monsters (unluckily, the hero wasn’t there to stop them).

How do you get to the bank? How do you transport the currency? What kind of paperwork do you think you’d need? Is there such a thing as ‘monster insurance’? Should the monarchy repay you as a citizen of the kingdom?

We have done these exercises as it forces us to imagine user journeys, pain points and solutions that can be applied to real life.

Going beyond

At Imagination – we don’t stop short of looking for inspiration at our planet’s doorstep. We often go beyond to find those insights that are truly extraordinary yet relatable and genuinely a breath of fresh air to some of the most challenging briefs we have received.

Junior González

Senior Strategist, Imagination Middle East

Junior is a versatile strategist with a mind for both creativity and business. Intensely curious, he believes in effectively connecting with the right stakeholders at the right time, through strategy, experience, or design.

Kicked off his career at McCann, with a stint at CERN in Geneva, and Jack Morton in Dubai. Clients include FIFA, Uber, Adidas, Saudi Aramco, PIF, Qiddiya, and Saudi’s Ministry of Tourism. As a senior strategist at Imagination Middle East, he's integral to the agency’s regional offer for current and new business and internal culture-building efforts.