Licence to change: my Bond branding lesson

Bryce Michelmore
November 29, 2012

When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand it when the actor in a series changed. Whether it was TV or movies, I could never reconcile the concept of a completely different person playing the same character. It was either a lack of gullibility or lack of imagination, I guess.

When it came to James Bond, I just thought that each actor represented a ‘new’ Bond. Maybe the old one had retired, or was killed in the line of duty and a new agent came along and inherited the title. That’s how my childhood mind processed the change in appearance and character.

Of course, I have understood for some time now that it’s the nature of commercial contracts and a need to defy ageing that dictate the transition to a new Bond every few movies (and just to be clear, I do now realise that he is meant to be the same person).

But after watching the latest Bond movie, I’m starting to think there’s more to it than that. The changing of the Bond actor really represents an opportunity to refresh the Bond brand itself. The latest film represents a very different era to the frivolous, flippant and fun Bond of my own childhood.

Today’s Bond is serious, vulnerable, emotional and loyal. He has a past and it shaped who he is today. He questions his future and his place in the world. He has substance abuse issues and is struggling to keep pace with the modern world. And the villains are sinister and psychotic with no explicit motivation for their actions.

It’s not my idea of a good time, but I grew up in the 80s, when Roger Moore traded one-liners with bell-bottom wearing villains bent on world domination and there were double entendres galore (Pussy Galore, in fact). Life was simpler then. That kind of frippery just wouldn’t cut it with the current generation of Bond fans.

Like all brands, James Bond has to stay relevant to the world he inhabits. And like all brands, if the Bond franchise didn’t evolve it would inevitably come to grief. You just can’t do the same thing over and over and expect to stay relevant. As branding expert Mark Ritson points out, brands naturally become ‘dusty’ over time as their customers age –  a process he discusses in this article on Chanel.

Since the digital revolution, this process has only accelerated. Brands can live and die by their choices: just look at Research in Motion. Who would have thought that the makers of BlackBerry (the original smartphone) would get into such financial strife, so quickly? Not much good focusing on a business brand if the growth is in consumer markets.

So how’s your brand doing these days? When was the last time you had a good hard look at your relevance in the marketplace? Could the dust be collecting?

If you’re interested in a review of your brand’s effectiveness, we can help. Why not contact us to discuss what we can offer?

Bryce Michelmore is an Account Manager at Wellmark.

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