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International Brand of Mystery: Learning Branding from James Bond

Eric Groves

By Eric Groves

Do you happen to have 48 hours to kill? If so, you could do worse than spending it marathoning each and every James Bond film — from Dr. No through Skyfall. (Seriously, it takes 2 days, I Googled it to make sure my math was correct.)

If you happened to sit down and watch them all, you would inevitably note each of the different actors that has come to embody the secret agent.

All “who-played-it-best” arguments aside, the man chosen as 007 has changed over the years and each character has had their own differences and appeals. Although they have similar features, no two actors look exactly the same.


And, that’s one of the reasons that James Bond is not only one of the most iconic men of the 20th and 21st centuries, but also an iconic brand.

We often think of brands in terms of their logo, name, and colors. But, this is really just the outward expression of the brand. A brand’s core identity is the meaning that is attached to those symbols. James Bond proves this exact point.

Even though the character has been played by many actors over the years, you have no problem visualizing exactly how James Bond looks in each of the films. You know what he looks like, even if you don’t know what he actually looks like. And, you know (for the most part) what to expect from him — whether it’s Roger Moore or Daniel Craig.

Just the name conjures up immediate thoughts of the a suit-clad secret agent barreling through crowded spaces, taking down bad guys, and whisking away damsels in distress.

Despite multiple changes in appearance, the James Bond brand has remained stronger than ever. And, the elements of that brand — mystery, charm, risk, quick wits — have all stayed in tact.

That is the textbook definition of a strong brand that is able to change and adapt without losing its core brand persona.

And, it’s a perfect example of how your brand can become something iconic and meaningful — something more than just a logo or a name.

All of the components of a brand’s physical identity can — and likely will, over time — change without sacrificing the brand’s persona. Like an actor playing Bond, these elements are just representations of the actual character. But, the brand itself is a deeper set of ideals that lay beneath the surface and stay consistent with internal and environmental changes.

branding core

So, what can we learn from James Bond? (Other than how to drive an Aston Martin really, really, really fast.)

Develop a consistent, clear, and meaningful brand that provides the flexibility to survive and thrive through a changing market — or an aging actor’s career — and you’ll find long term success.

Top image via Flickr user ateam.



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