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LOST in story space! - By Maarten Schäfer

LOST in story space! - By Maarten Schäfer

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Published by Maarten Schäfer
I find myself flushed ashore at an unknown beach. Where am I? How did I get here? - by Maarten Schäfer
I find myself flushed ashore at an unknown beach. Where am I? How did I get here? - by Maarten Schäfer

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Published by: Maarten Schäfer on Jul 04, 2011
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      LOST  IN  A  STORY  SPACE     At   first   it’s   all   dark   with   a   total   silence.

  Then   there   is   this   blinding   light,   even   with   my   eyes   closed.   The  sound  of  breaking  waves…  the  taste  of  salt  water  and  sand  in  my  mouth.  I’m  laying  face  down   in  the  sand.  Why  am  I  all  wet  and  where  am  I?     I  open  my  eyes  but  the  image  I  see  is  like  an  overexposed  picture,  completely  white  with  some   faded  stains.  One  of  the  stains  is  moving  and  slowly  transforms  into  the  silhouette  of  a  man  with   an  unknown  face:  “Bom  dia,  tudo  bom?”       The  man  speaks  Portuguese.  What  am  I  doing  here  and  where  is  here?  “Do  you  speak  English”  I   ask,  with  a  strange  voice,  caused  by  the  sand  in  my  mouth:  “Where  am  I?”.   In   the   way   the   man   looks   at   me,   I   see   that   he   does   not   understand   what   I’m   saying.   “Yes,   I’m   okay,  tudo  bem…  given  the  circumstances”  I  reply  as  I  sit  up.  But  what  are  the  circumstances?     The  man  turns  around,  picks  up  his  fishing  gear  and  walks  away  following  the  coast  line,  leaving   me  sitting  here  on  this  unknown  beach.     “Okay,   calm   down”   I   think   out   loud,   “let’s   start   from   scratch…   what   do   I   know?   My   name   is   Maarten   Schäfer   and   I’m   from   Amsterdam.   I’m   the   founder   of   a   company   called   CoolBrands   House,  specialised  in  storytelling  for  brands.  I  travel  the  planet  in  search  of  brands  which  have  a   cool  story  to  tell.  I  then  write  the  stories  with  a  wow-­‐factor  and  stickiness  to  facilitate  word-­‐of-­‐ mouth.  But  what  am  I  doing  here,  flushed  ashore  on  a,  as  it  seems,  Brazilian  beach?  Was  I  on  a   boat?  I  try  to  recall  memories  of  a  boat  trip.  Images  pop  up  in  my  mind.       I   see   myself   on   a   38-­‐metre   schooner.   There   is   a   light   breeze   and   the   sails   pull   the   ship   gently   through   the   water.   Suddenly   the   calm   is   disturbed   by   one   of   the   crew:   “Whale   shark!”   Leaning   over  the  rail  we  scan  the  water’s  surface  but  can  see  nothing  but  waves.  “Whale  shark!”  the  sailor   calls   out   again   and   gestures   towards   the   waves.   Suddenly   we   see   part   of   a   tailfin   emerging   above   the   surface,   slowly   cutting   through   the   water.   “There   he   is!”   the   sailor   exclaims   and   we   see   a   shadow  disappear  under  the  boat.      

          We  get  into  the  Zodiac  and  the  sailor  takes  us  to  the  place  where  we  spotted  the  whale  shark  last.   Whale  sharks  are  the  largest  fish  on  earth,  measuring  more  than  12  metres  in  length  and  weighing   up  to21  tonnes.  I  put  on  my  diving  mask,  bite  on  the  snorkel  and  spend  a  few  seconds  considering   whether  it  is  a  good  idea  to  get  into  the  water  with  a  beast  that  weighs  the  equivalent  of  several   mid-­‐class  passenger  cars.  I  decide  that  a  real  man  should  not  be  afraid  of  a  couple  of  mid-­‐class   passenger   cars   and   let   myself   fall   backwards   into   the   water.   As   soon   as   the   air   bubbles   have   dissolved   and   I   have   oriented   myself   I   start   looking   for   the   Big   One.   The   sailor   has   spotted   him   from   the   Zodiac   and   points:   “He’s   coming!”   he   calls   out   “You’re   on   a   collision   course!”   Is   that   excitement  or  worry  I  detect  in  his  voice?  An  undefined  shape  is  moving  toward  me  and  getting   bigger  by  the  second.  I  distinguish  a  one-­‐metre-­‐wide  mouth  with  two  small  eyes  on  either  side.     The  colossus  is  swimming  right  at  me  and  is  only  a  few  metres  away.  “Easy  boy!”  I  think  with  all   my  might.  I  know  these  fish  are  plankton  eaters,  but  I  have  no  doubt  that  I  would  easily  fit  into   this   mouth   that   is   the   size   of   a   garbage   container.   A   metre   and   a   half   before   impact   the   whale   shark   appears   to   notice   me   and   dives   down   to   pass   underneath   me.   I   walk   my   hands   over   his   back,  which  feels  surprisingly  smooth.  After  about  eight  metres  of  fish  I  see  an  enormous  tail  fin   coming   at   me   –   it   looks   more   like   the   sail   of   a   wind   surf.   As   though   he   knows   where   I   am,   he   steers  his  tail  clear  of  me  as  well.     Strangely   enough,   when   I   come   up   to   the   surface   the   world   hasn’t   changed…   I   just   had   a   close   encounter   with   a   whale   shark!   “Wow!”   I   try   to   scream,   but   because   I   have   a   snorkel   in   my   mouth   it  comes  out  a  bit  differently.  I  pull  myself  up  onto  the  boat,  fall  onto  the  floor  of  the  Zodiac  and   realise  that  I  can  cross  one  item  off  my  Bucket  List  –  one  down,  nine  to  go!            

I   remember   getting   back   on   the   schooner   safe   and   sound,   so   this   can   not   be   the   event   leading   to   me  washing  ashore  on  this  beach.  And  then,  the  encounter  with  the  whale  shark  was  in  the  Gulf   of  Aden,  near  Djibouti  so  that  makes  it  quite  impossible  to  end  up  on  a  deserted  beach  in  Brazil.     I  get  up  and  look  around,  but  see  noting  but  a  white  sandy  beach  separating  the  endless  ocean   from   a   dense   forest.   No   sign   of   a   metro   station   or   bus   stop,   so   I   decide   to   start   walking   in   the   direction  where  the  fisherman  went.       In  2002,  I  decided  to  travel  the  world  meet  people  and  encounter  brands,  take  pictures  and  write   stories.   The   idea   of   this   project   is   helping   brands   with   storytelling.   They   know   how   to   do   commercial   communication   and   how   to   transfer   a   marketing   message   to   their   target   audience,   but   it’s   all   top-­‐down.   The   average   consumer   is   confronted   with   an   information   overload   with   thousands  of  marketing  messages  every  day.  There  is  also  a  growing  mistrust  towards  commercial   communication   while   research   tells   us   that   more   than   70%   of   all   purchases   are   influenced   by   peer2peer  communication.  So  by  telling  a  good,  relevant  and  authentic  story  to  opinion  leaders,   the  message  starts  travelling  horizontally  through  connectors  to  the  target  audience.     I’m  walking  on  this  beach,  following  the  coastline  for  over     an  hour  as  I  see  an  entrance  into  the  forest.  I  decide  to  take     the  path  into  the  forest,  as  the  good  thing  about  paths  is,     that  they  lead  to  places.  Maybe  this  is  the  path  that  leads     to  the  place  I  want  to  go!       The  forest  is  dense  and  the  sun  is  captured  by  the  highest     trees  which  makes  the  temperature  drop  at  least  10  degrees.    

“This  must  be  part  of  the  Atlantic  Rainforest”,  I  think  to  myself.  In  the  16th  century,  when  the   Portuguese  explorers  reached  the  current  Brazilian  coast,  the  Mata  Atlantica  covered  the   complete  coastline  from  North  to  South,  much  further  than  the  eyes  could  see.  ‘Civilisation’   replaced  forest  with  cities  and  agriculture  leaving  only  7%  of  the  primary  forest.  “Who  needs   trees,  if  you  can  have  cities  and  cars?”  I  think  out  loud  “But  then  again,  what  will  we  breath   when  there  are  no  more  trees  left?  Carbon  dioxide?”     I   hear   a   group   of   monkeys   up   in   the   trees.   The   noise   approaches   slowly   and   seems   to   come   from   different   directions.   Then   I   see   them,   crossing   the   track   one   by   one,   two   levels   up.   They   jump   from  tree  to  tree,  stop  and  stare  at  me  just  as  I’m  staring  at  them.  “Is  this  the  way  to  a  village,   where  I  can  have  a  coffee  and  a  shower?”  I  ask  them,  while  pointing  in  a  random  direction.  They   look   at   me   as   if   I’m   speaking   Chinese,   and   then   continue   their   route   without   answering.   “Let’s   assume  this  is  the  right  direction”  I  say  to  myself  and  continue  walking.  The  narrow  path  is  getting   more  narrow  and  the  forest  is  getting  more  dense.     Suddenly   I   have   the   feeling   that   I’m   being   watched.   I   look   backwards   on   the   track,   but   see   nothing.  I  scan  the  forest,  but  all  I  see  is  trees.  Probably  there  are  hundreds  of  animals  watching   me,  but  I  do  not  see  a  single  one.  Then  I  see  a  black,  orange  bird  high  up  in  the  trees.  It’s  a  toucan,   observing  each  and  every  move  I  make.  I  continue  walking,  but  the  bird  is  following  me  from  the   treetops.   He   moves   down   a   level   and   starts   shouting   at   me   in   toucan   language.   It’s   as   if   he   is   yelling:  “What  do  you  think  you’re  doing  in  my  forest!”  I  look  up  and  reply:  “Sorry,  but  I’m  lost  and   I’m  trying  to  find  my  way  back  to  civilization.”  The  toucan  moves  down  a  branch  and  continues   shouting:   “Well   get   lost   somewhere   else,   this   is   my   forest!”   I   look   at   the   bird,   amazed   by   its   arrogance  and  reply:  “Who  do  you  think  you  are,  Elvis  or  something?  I  must  say  you  have  a  big   mouth  for  a  small  bird  like  yourself”.  Then  the  bird  flies  away  and  positions  itself  in  a  tree  top  and   shouts   down   in   toucan   language:   “And   you   humans   have   really   small   brains,   cutting   trees   and   destroying  the  forest!”  he  turns  his  back  at  me  as  he  finishes  his  monologue:  “Now  go  forth…  and   stop  multiplying!”       All  of  a  sudden,  I  feel  dizzy  and  sit  down  on  the  ground.  “Am  I  hallucinating?  Was  this  bird  really   talking  or  am  I  dehydrated?  I  really  have  to  find  something  to  drink.”  I  get  on  my  feet  again  and   continue  the  path  deeper  into  the  forest.                            

The big secret of the CoolBrands storytelling campaign is that we then seed the stories via the network of the participating brands: 25.000 opinion leaders and 2.5M connectors worldwide sharing the stories. Actually CoolBrands is a sort of launching platform for stories, rocketing the stories around the planet.

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