The brand that is Bond

HARISH BHAT | Updated on March 12, 2018

James Bond

The latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, has just been released to rave reviews. Critics are calling it the best Bond movie of all time, and are already predicting it will smash box office records. Here is a movie franchise that is 50 years old, yet shows no signs of any fatigue or ageing. Ever since the first film in the series, Dr. No, was released in 1962, Bond the brand has only got stronger with age. Not many brands can boast of such vibrant longevity, which makes marketers drool.

What explains the sustained virility of James Bond? Can 007 teach us a few lessons in marketing and branding? Oh yes, he can. Read on.

Men want to be like James Bond

James Bond is aspirational for all men. They want to be able to fight and shoot like him. They would love to drive the fast cars he uses, to jump out of aircraft or ski effortlessly down the Alps. Either explicitly or in their secret dreams, they wish to be the girl magnet that Bond is, to make love like he does. These are primal male desires which will always remain unchanged, and James Bond represents them in human form. Hence, Bond the brand has appealed strongly to men over the years. As long as men aspire to these dreams, this appeal will never diminish.

Lesson for marketers: Brands should be built around attributes that consumers find most aspirational. If these attributes are fundamental life truths, then brands constructed around them will stay alive for ever.

Women love James Bond

For women, James Bond is the handsome man of mystery and risk, always unattainable. No woman is able to unravel his secrets, as he moves with ease from one gorgeous girl to the next. No woman is able to pin him down. He will forever remain unmarried, unrestrained and flirtatious. Yet he is impossibly good looking, nattily dressed, the epitome of effortless style in car and in bed. For all these reasons, women will never give up chasing him, and three female generations have successively loved him since 1962.

Lesson for marketers: Brands need a layer of complexity and mystique, which magnifies their appeal. Some part of the brand story needs to remain unattainable for normal people, because this makes consumers lust for the product.

James Bond is a good guy

James Bond is always fighting on the side of the good guys, against bad people who are out to destroy the world. In every movie, he vanquishes them, after an exciting and intelligent pursuit. In many stories, he saves the world from disaster. We love the victory of good over evil, this is an integral part of the epics we have grown up with. Every Bond movie has a well-crafted and unique villain whom we hate, so when this person is eventually vanquished, we share even more joyously in Bond’s triumph.

Lesson for marketers: Brands can remain vibrant by constantly narrating timeless stories which consumers relate to, and love hearing time and again. The triumph of good over evil is one such story. The fairytale romantic ending of “they lived happily ever after” is another such story. And there are many others, which are etched in our epics, fairytales and legends.

James Bond is always in tune with the times

Bond the brand has constantly evolved, over five decades of its existence. When James Bond appeared in the movie Goldfinger in 1964, the cool gadgets he used included an attaché case with secret devices, a bowler hat with its own secrets, and a gold-plated gun. Now, fast forward to Quantum of Solace, released in 2008. Here, Bond carries a microchip implant, a Sony Ericsson cell phone with a built-in image identifier, and an MI6 profile touchscreen. Similarly, his suits carry the latest natty cut. His cars incorporate the latest equipment. Clearly, he is the man with the latest in technology and fashion, in tune with the times.

Lesson for marketers: Brands have to evolve seamlessly with the times, because only then will they remain forever young in consumers’ minds. In the world of brands, even classics have to be appropriately contemporise so that they don’t become outdated.

James Bond is exciting

Every James Bond movie is packed to the brim with excitement. The great pre-title scenes set the pace, and they have now become a signature of these movies. How can we ever forget opening scenes such as Bond piloting that single-seater aircraft in Octopussy, through heat-seeking missiles and enemy hangars? Thereafter, the action in Bond movies moves to exotic locations, which range from Cuba to Russia to Korea to Turkey. From start to end, the story never pauses even a little bit, and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, in a light but thrilling way.

Lesson for marketers: Consumers love excitement in their lives and their brands. Brands have to do their best to remain exciting at all times. There are many routes to keeping brands exciting – product or packaging innovation, path-breaking advertising, great store experience are some of them. But if brands lose their excitement quotient, consumers can quickly turn away.

James Bond has remained true to his core

Despite all the evolution and excitement, James Bond has remained exactly who he was 50 years ago – the daredevil spy for MI6, a man who readily takes on the most challenging tasks and saves the world. He does all this with style and aplomb, constantly mixing work with pleasure, even as he outfoxes his adversaries. Many of the supporting sets and props are also unchanged – there is always the Bond Girl, M the boss, Q the gadgets man, Ms Moneypenney, MI6 and London. So, the core proposition has clearly not changed, hence people know exactly what to expect from the next Bond movie.

Lesson for marketers: Successful brands stick to the knitting. Having established a winning core proposition, they retain this essence with discipline and rigour, however sharp the temptations to change for the sake of change. Good marketers know it is possible to add new gloss to the frills, without ever touching the core.

(Harish Bhat is Managing Director, Tata Global Beverages Ltd. The views are

personal. > )

Published on November 01, 2012

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