Dear CMO:

It’s Bond Week. As in, “Bond. James Bond” Week. Don’t know about you, but the premiere of a Bond film is a once-every-other-year kind of holiday in my family.

What’s new? There’s a new Bond in the form of Daniel Craig. We’re going back to basics with a screenplay adaptation of Ian Flemming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale. The marketing is more streamlined and elegant than in years past, too. So why, in your world of widgets and social media-enabled mobile media entertainment platforms, does this matter to you? There are lessons to be learned here, so in the immortal words of the late Desmond Llewellyn, “pay attention, 007…”

Bond and cool.

Bond, for all his tuxedos and martinis, represents our animal lizard brain acting up in public and doing the stuff we all know is right but don’t have the guts to actually do. If I were a far more cerebral guy, I’d postulate that the Bond franchise shows us everything that each of us wants to be in a Freudian id kind of way. But then that would make me more of a Roger Moore and less of a Sean Connery, so I won’t. We all have our brands to protect, don’t we.

All of this makes Bond the world’s best product placement opportunity for brands that go after people like us. Do you sell action, style, and self-assurance? Do you sell aspiration? How about technology? If Bond uses your stuff, you’re cool. Period.

I connected Plantronics with Bond last time out, placing a mobile headset in the opening sequence of “Die Another Day” and connecting it all together with a global promotion. We opened new retail markets, saw many fold increases in in-store merchandising and spiked our incremental sell-through and ROI with some very picky channel partners. This was a huge win for us. It worked because Bond and design intensive mobile communications devices made sense. If I were marketing MySpace, it wouldn’t have made sense.

Bond and brand.

Another immense lesson from all this is the management of the brand. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Danjaq, owners of the Bond franchise, when discussions over “to Brosnan or not to Brosnan” were taking place. The best parlor game in Hollywood was, “so who do you think the next Bond should be?” Hugh Jackman? Clive Owen? Hell, even George Clooney (you might not remember this, but the first Bond film was a live television drama of Casino Royale starring Barry Nelson, an oh-so-whitebread-American, as ‘card sense Jimmy Bond’ — it wasn’t until ‘Doctor No’, the first movie, that the unknown Sean Connery was cast as a brit)?

So fresh off of four chart-topping releases beginning with “Goldeneye” and ending with “Die Another Day”, you lose the Bond you courted for twenty years. There is no heir apparent. Coming off a high, your brand is now inexplicably floundering. What do you do?

These brand positioning choices under extreme pressure were excellent and should be learning tools for any marketer managing a brand: go back to your brand’s core principles and bring Bond back to his Ian Flemming roots. Bond as ‘licensed to kill’, no invisible cars, no surfing off of tidal waves. The antagonist isn’t a madman threatening to destroy the world, he’s just a bad guy with a gambling problem. Almost sounds like Le Carre, but it’s not. It’s Bond. A ‘Die Yet Another Day’ would not have worked. Craig, with his straight-forward menace, doesn’t need a car with a dash-mounted laser beam. He just shoots you. And it works.

Bond and Credibility.

Don’t confuse credibility with cool here. Bond has been around on the big screen for longer than most of his fans have been alive. This is a forty-year old franchise and the most successful in Hollywood history. Bond has a legacy that spans not just movies, but actors and actresses, producers, feuds, and enough catch-phrases to fill several Bond encyclopedias. Bond is a universe in and of itself with devotees the world over.

Connect with Bond and you’re in a very exclusive club. You don’t get this with Triple X. You don’t get this with Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, or Twenty. Not even with the Italian Job. Bond delivers a sense of history that ironically translates in the minds of our market as comfortable, safe and dependable — even if he, on a personal level, is none of those things.

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> This franchise should be part of your marketing planning if you sell aspirational, cool-inspired products and services. As for how you do this, read my earlier post on Marketing Profs, here, or from my March post, Note to CMO: Marketing, Movies and Money.

> When in brand trouble, go back to basics: revert to your core brand attributes. Simplify your messaging and execute in a way that is true to your pure brand essence and you will do no wrong.

> Connecting yourself to a franchise or brand with more strength than your own can give you a very positive halo effect. I don’t care who you are, there’s something out there holier than thou. When in doubt, find ways to work with them.

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As always, hats off to the hardest working man in Hollywood, Jay May, CEO of FeatureThis!, the product placement agency to the stars, who guided us through the placement process at Plantronics, and the wonderful marketing team at Sony Pictures, led by the equally wonderful Mary Goss Robino.

Cheers and regards.

Copyright (c) 2006 Stephen Denny