The Business of Bond

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We take a look at the brands that have been shaken and stirred by 007

“The name’s Bond, James Bond, licensed to print money”, is the line 007 has never committed to film, but is the thought that ought to swim around its producers’ heads, as they swivel in their chairs, stroke their white cats and manipulate the most powerful brand in Hollywood. For Ian Fleming’s most famous creation has endured fifty years of celluloid intact, and has more brands wanting a piece of the action than any other movie-based property, resulting in a moneymaking merry-go-round that sucks us all in. Cars, watches, suits, drinks; they all want to be associated with the most profitable movie icon, and with good reason as there is very real proof that being touched by Bond is commercial gold(finger).

The release of Skyfall has seen unprecedented levels of product placement being paid for by brands desperate to be a part of the alpha male world of the double 0 agent, and history tells us that these sponsors will see their money back and some, as they woo a new wave of fans across from rival products. We simply can’t get enough of wanting to be like Bond.

We take a look at the brands that have benefitted most from being associated with 007 over the past half century, and look for lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Bond’s product placements.

Aston Martin

The British car maker is undoubtedly 007′s biggest fan, with much of their enduring public brand association being ‘the car that James Bond drives’. 007 has only driven an Aston Martin in nine films, with the classic Bond car, the DB5, only driven in six, but it’s the lasting impression that the stylish sports car retains with the viewer that has made the relationship with Bond so special for the brand.

Bond has made use of his Aston Martin in Goldfinger, before George Lazenby got his hands on a DBS in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Perhaps it was the curse of the one-movie Bond, but Aston Martin then had a decade-long hiatus, before re-emerging in the Eighties with Dalton’s The Living Daylights, and then featuring regularly through the Nineties, all the way up to 2016′s Skyfall.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Bond without some customisations, and 007′s Aston Martin’s have included ejector seats and missiles, not to mention Brosnan’s infamous invisibility cloaking device.

The Britishness of the brand and it’s link with Bond is critical to the success of the relationship, and it can be argued that the two combining forced have helped to solidify their own success.

What entrepreneurs can learn: Find associations that play to emotional loyalties of consumers.

Rolex

Ian Fleming’s 007 wore Rolex watches, and made no secret of his love of the timeless timepieces. And the silver screen’s Bond started off with the Swiss brand’s watches on his arm, wearing them from his first outing, Dr No, in 1962, through to his tenth movie, The Man With the Golden Gun.

However, Roger Moore turned digital in the follow up, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Seiko paid to take over the important job of keeping Bond on time for his saving the world. Timothy Dalton wore a Submariner in 1989′s License to Kill, but a Rolex hasn’t been seen on Bond’s arm since then.

From a marketing perspective the brand association with Bond isn’t as strong as its legacy suggests it ought to be, but the enduring appeal of Fleming’s novels means that a list like this couldn’t be without the most famous luxury watch brand in the world.

What entrepreneurs can learn: Being associated with a famous face at an early stage in their development can lead to long lasting benefit.

Martini

Bond’s drink of choice actually also includes Gordon’s Gin, vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet, and a large thin slice of lemon peel. However, it’s the dry Martini that gets a name-check, and has been made famous by 007.

The ‘Vesper’, as Bond calls it, was first created in Fleming’s 1953 novel, Casino Royale, and 007 has been regularly spotted sipping one since then, shaken, not stirred, naturally.

However, despite the very real link between the secret agent and the brand, marketing activities have been few and far between, and 007 has famously turned his back on his favoured drink in Skyfall, as product placement has meant that Heinekein has stepped into the breach, to keep our hero’s thirst at bay.

Still, Martini is inextricably linked with the franchise, and it will take a long time for viewers to forget this.

What entrepreneurs can learn: Scour your market, and identify individuals or third parties who are indelibly linked to you, and exploit it.

Omega

Whilst Fleming’s Bond was very much a Rolex man, recent movie versions have seen Brosnan and now Craig wear Omega in every film since 1995′s Goldeneye.

The Swiss company has paid an estimated $60 million over the past seven films to not only have 007 pictured wearing its Seamaster, with major marketing campaigns heavily featuring the link-up.

Both Brosnan and Craig have both appeared in retail campaigns for the brand, and sales are estimated to have more than doubled, thanks to the association.

Interestingly, the product placement industry gets ever more sophisticated, and brands now are able to use fictional characters to denigrate their rivals, with Craig’s Bond asked if he wears a Rolex in Casino Royale, only to be told in no uncertain terms, and with a withering look, that he wears Omega.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and one which looks likely to continue into the future.

What entrepreneurs can learn: You get what you pay for. A return on investment requires investment, so don’t be afraid to invest financially in reciprocal deals that have excellent prospects of return.

Heinekein

And so to Skyfall, where 007 no longer wishes to sip his vodka martini, and instead wants a beer that touches parts other beers can’t.

Heinekein has allegedly paid $45 million – nearly one third of the entire production budget – to have its lager usurp the traditional Bond beverage.

For their money, the Dutch brand has Bond obviously sip its product in the movie, and also appear in a decidedly Austin Powers-like TV ad. However, what will make the deal worth it in the eyes of the brand is the controversy that the relationship has caused, and how skilful marketing manipulation has enabled a global debate on whether Bond would drink lager, with its brand right in the centre of the conversation. In these days of social media power, the deal has been a masterstroke of PR savvy, mixed with famous 007 glamour, and the brand will most likely see the enormous expenditure as something of a bargain when it looks back after.

What entrepreneurs can learn: Smart sponsorships don’t just look good on posters, but engage consumers in debates.