Creative Best Practices

Neither Shaken Nor Stirred, How Bond’s Brand Stayed True While Changing

Posted by John Strain on November 12th, 2012 at 10:10 am

We've been on a James Bond kick recently, and with Skyfall breaking the record for biggest Bond film opening weekend, it's worth discussing how the brand has evolved.

More than once in my relatively brief advertising career, I’ve heard the words “It should be sort of… sort of James Bond-ish.” or “You know Double-O seven s%@*, man.” The iconic character that became a brand has evolved into an adjective. And this is the greater truth. After almost 60 years of being in existence, the James Bond brand is one of the most easily recognizable and desired the world over.

Class. Style. Technologically-advanced elegance with an edge. Women love him and men want to be him. So why wouldn’t companies want to hitch a horse to Bond’s proverbial wagon?

In fact they have been doing so for decades. Bond has hawked everything. From cars to cell phones, and airlines to eyelash curlers, big brands have been picking up the tab for Bond films since the conception of product placement.

Still, the premier of the new Bond film “Skyfall” this past weekend will mark a seemingly momentous occasion. And NO, not because it’s the first time Bond has reached for a beer instead of his classic vodka martini (It’s not by the way...stay tuned), but perhaps due to the sheer mass of the product placement agreement between Heineken and the movie’s producers.

All told, the deal netted a reported $45 million for the film, and some have speculated that without the influx of cash from the Dutch Beer Brewery, the movie never would have happened.

So with all that being said, it would be obvious why the film’s producers would risk shunning one of the most iconic facets of their character. “Shaken, not stirred” gets traded in for “In a chilled pint, please,” much to the chagrin of Bond purists. And all you need to do to figure out why is to follow the dollars, right? Well maybe there is a larger lesson to be learned here...

Even the biggest and best brands should be malleable

Truth be told, the Bond brand is unique in the way that it is ALWAYS evolving. Each actor who has portrayed Bond brought their own special touch to the collective Bond persona. The move from Pierce Bronsan to Daniel Craig saw the brand go from “Hokey and Charming” to “Full-on Badass.” But the brand has always had its pillars intact.  Maintaining integrity is vital to keeping a strong consumer base, but sometimes in order to reach new customers, it can be appropriate to delineate from the norm.

A terrific brand always brings with it feverish loyalty, which can be a double-edged sword. In this case, the film’s producers took a calculated risk (albeit, one with a lot of zeroes on the end of it). Essentially, they gambled on potentially compromising an aspect of the Bond brand and alienating the core base in order to acquire the necessary means to make a quality film…one that would be worthy of attracting new fans to the franchise. Still, in 1962’s “Dr. No” Sean Connery ordered a Red Stripe. And the world didn’t explode. Imagine that. If nothing else, the announcement of a tactic like this got the online world conversing about both Heineken and the movie. We’ll have to wait and see if it pays off...but I’m guessing for a substantial opening weekend.

Like any good Bond storyline, this one has it’s own dose of mystery and intrigue. Did the influx of cash allow the film’s producers to make the movie they dreamed about? And will the image of James Bond holding that green bottle influence people the world over to opt for a new drink? Time will tell.

Personally, I’m more of a whiskey guy anyway…. But only because that’s what Don Draper drinks. Obviously.

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