by Ian Doescher


My friend Josh and I have known each other more than 30 years now. We met on the second day of third grade, when, according to Josh, I walked straight up to him, stuck out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Ian Doescher. Who are you?” Since then, Josh and I have shared many things together, most of all a love of movies. Estimating conservatively, I would say we’ve spent more than 1,000 hours looking at a screen together. Recently, Josh was sharing his love of the James Bond movie franchise with me. I used to watch the old Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond films, but haven’t seen them in decades. I’ve seen the new Daniel Craig movies, but I can’t say I know much of the lore around James Bond. Josh believes this is a hole in my film knowledge, and urged me (in the way only geeky friends can) to rectify the problem.

At the same time, my sons are now old enough to watch movies like the James Bond series, so the three of us—my two sons and I—have started watching the Bond movies in order when my wife is at work. So far, we are still in the Connery years, having just finished You Only Live Twice.

There are so many great things about the James Bond movies, and so many terrible things, too. As we watched Goldfinger, I felt compelled to say to my boys, “You know the way James Bond treats women is not how you should treat women, right?” They said, “Yeah, Dad, duh.” The sex and violence and 1960s attitudes (including prejudices of all kinds) aside, there’s a lot of fun to be had with the Bond movies. And, since this is a blog article for a marketing agency, here are some thoughts about what James Bond has to teach us about marketing:

  1. A good opening will draw people in: each of the James Bond movies starts with a brief action sequence followed by an animated title sequence with a song that is usually flashy and exciting. With those two things opening almost every James Bond movie, how can you not be pulled in? Marketing is no different: a good headline, an interesting campaign theme, and compelling and eye-catching design are just as important as the start of the movie: you want people to stick around, longing for more.
  2. Give the people what they expect: James Bond wouldn’t be the same without his gadgets, his designer clothes, his debonair demeanot, and his cars. And, of course, who can forget his one liners? “Bond. James Bond.” “Vodka martini: shaken, not stirred.” These qualities and lines are part of the Bond brand, and if they were missing from a movie it wouldn’t feel like James Bond. Your branding is no different—what are the colors, design elements, slogans and logo your customers expect to see when they look at your ad? If you can’t answer that question, you’re fate may be as bleak as a Bond villain’s.
  3. Good looks are half the battle: no matter what he’s wearing, whether a tuxedo or a sweatsuit, James Bond always looks good. His hair is perfect, his clothes are never unkempt, there’s not a thread out of place. Is your design dressed as well as James Bond, or do you look more like the frumpy sidekick? James Bond is classy, always. Regardless of your brand voice, you should be, too.
  4. Sometimes, the time has come for reset: when Daniel Craig became the new James Bond in 2006, the series itself was rebooted. No longer did they pretend to maintain the single story line of a single spy’s life. Now, we were starting over. Rebranding your company—re-thinking the colors, the logo, the look, the fonts, all of it—is sometimes a necessary step to keep things fresh and relevant. The James Bond movies had lost their bite, with apologies to those who love Pierce Brosnan. The filmmakers, therefore, decided to hit the reset button, and pretty much no one is sad about their decision. After working in marketing for many years, I’ve never met a client who went through a rebrand and, afterward, said, “Gosh, I wish we could go back to our old look.” Nope, that doesn’t happen.
  5. Make it a happy ending: you can argue, particularly with more recent Bond movies, that they don’t always have a happy ending. But they definitely did in the early days. Make it a happy ending for your customer, too—I don’t mean a good offer in your ad, although that’s helpful. I mean the experience they have once they walk into your store or visit you online, or however they actually purchase your products and services. If your customer service and usability don’t match up to your look, the customers will have a frustrating ending with you, and whether or not they ever come back to you will be the real cliffhanger.

I’m sure there are other marketing lessons to be gleaned from James Bond. (Of course, another entire article could be written about the marketing of the films themselves.) I’m sure there’s some marketing equivalent of being put in a scenario that is supposed to kill you but is easily escapable, another hallmark of Bond films (especially the early ones). But right now, the popcorn is made, the TV is on, the theme tune is playing, and I have to go see to the education of two boys.

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