Great British Brands No.007: How the James Bond brand gets better with age

The author of the iconic Bond books, Ian Fleming, died nearly 50 years ago after writing 14 novels and a number of short stories. And as the latest Bond movie hits our screens, it’s interesting to note that the brand Fleming invented has lived as long and had far more outings. And rightly so: it not only obeys each of the magnificent seven laws of branding – it defines them.

1. It’s a brand with a constant core that sticks to what it’s good at

It’s the longest running global film series to date. A winning formula of guns, gadgets, gorgeous girls (with ridiculously suggestive names), great British cars and possibly the world’s most recognised audio signature. Add to the mix a preference for vodka martini ‘shaken, not stirred’, a penchant for a tailored tuxedo and a supporting cast of colourful and charismatic characters – Q, M and the delightful Miss Moneypenny – not to mention a long list of evil megalomaniacs and their deadly henchmen, and you have a blueprint for global domination.

2. It’s a brand that never stands still; it’s nimble, responds to opportunity and is brave enough to even reinvent itself

To date six actors have played Bond. Each with their own idiosyncrasies and each of us happy to discuss at great length our preference for our own favourite iteration. He’s dynamic, changes with the times and is currently becoming colder and more cynical – a reflection of the nine authors that have to date picked up from where Ian Fleming left the story in 1966.

3. It’s a brand with fans not just an audience

Each and every new Bond film is an experience. It’s not just another film. It’s a character with which we have a longstanding emotional relationship. A character we’re passionate about and let’s be honest many of us have imagined being – "The name’s Bond, James Bond”. That said, he doesn’t always get it right, but as fans we’re happy to forgive and move on regardless of his indiscretions. BMWs with re-inflating tyres being top of my personal list!

4. It’s a brand that goes beyond what you expect. It’s more than a movie

He’s a British institution. He’s iconic – a point confirmed when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became a ‘Bond girl’ for the night. 900 million worldwide viewers watched as the Queen was personally escorted from Buckingham Palace to the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. “Good evening Mr Bond,” she said simply, before boarding an awaiting Westland helicopter, from which (cue theme tune and unveiling of the Union Jack) the two of them appeared to parachute and make an unprecedented entrance into the stadium below.

5. It’s a brand that constantly changes the game

With Daniel Craig announcing the end of his tenure, the jury’s out as to who’ll be the next Bond. The forerunner surely remains black actor Idris Elba. There’s even a Facebook page (currently showing 34,000+ likes) campaigning for him to be selected for the role. And why not?

6. It’s a brand that’s emotional not logical

He’s had his moments. Moments where we’ve been challenged to suspend our disbelief. Moments of sheer magic. Not least the iconic submersible Lotus Esprit S1 Sports Car from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

7. And finally, it’s a brand story that is never completely told

In 2012, Skyfall took in excess of $1bn at the box office worldwide – second only to Marvel’s The Avengers. Audiences worldwide clearly love James and as long as they continue to do so, the story is clearly far from over. As a brand it simply goes from strength to strength. With Bond you just know there’s always unfinished business…

Adrian Burton is executive creative director at Lambie Nairn