Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Lessons in Success from James Bond and the James Bond Franchise

"Bond...James Bond"

The iconic phrase was first uttered by Sean Connery in the 1962 film Dr. No, where he portrayed a character introduced 9 years earlier in the novel Casino Royale.  Author Ian Fleming based the novel on his own wartime experiences in Naval Intelligence during the Second World War and got the name 'James Bond' from the author of the book 'Birds of the West Indies'.

From this almost innocuous beginning, movies starring James Bond have grossed almost $5 Billion  and the latest Bond film 'Spectre' added another $1 Billion in worldwide revenue.  Declared dead more than once over the past decades, the Bond franchise is as popular as ever more than 50 years after Dr. No's release.

Not only that,  Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli recently tweeted “We are absolutely thrilled to be releasing Bond 25 on 8 April 2020...".  The franchise is still going strong after nearly 60 years!

In July 2017, it was announced that Daniel Craig will return as James Bond in a movie that will have a November 2019 release. This will be Craig's fifth movie in the title role and it will also be the 25th film in the James Bond franchise. As one theme song put it, nobody does it better.

What are some lessons that can be learned from this success?

1)  Stick With What Works

James Bond works with the British Secret Service with a license to kill.  He basically beats up the bad guys, gets the girl, saves the world and looks suave throughout.  James Bond was introduced during the Cold War and his adversaries were usually Russian agents, the international crime organization Spectre or mega-villains like Goldfinger.

When the Iron Curtain came down, the villains may have changed but James Bond remained the same.  The audience still wanted Bond to wear his tuxedoes, enjoy his drinks and vanquish the bad guys, usually with a quip.  The later films had some characters make remarks about Bond being a Cold War relic or a misogynist but he always remained the quintessential Bond that everyone grew up with.

You may tweak a product or an idea but it's always best to keep the essential aspects that made it popular in the first place.

2) Change Will Happen But Make It Work To Your Advantage

Sean Connery was the perfect James Bond for many but he wasn't going to play the character forever.  By the time Goldfinger came out, he was tired from the overwhelming public pressure and the negative effect he felt playing an icon was having on his acting career.

What happened next?  The producers decided on Roger Moore after a strange interlude where George Lazenby was hired, fired and Sean Connery was brought back only to quit again after one film (more on Mr. Lazenby later).

Roger Moore was not Sean Connery Part 2.  His Bond was more suave, had a lighter touch and less prone to use his fists.  The franchised was re-energized and had massive success with films such as The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy.  At times, the Roger Moore films went a bit far for Bond purists, especially with the sexual innuendo, but the franchise was as popular as ever and survived the absence of Sean Connery in the title role.

When Roger Moore retired, the James Bond movies kept rolling by using actors who brought different facets to the character but kept the essence.  Whether more suave or more brutal, the franchise kept itself fresh by not recycling the same exact Bond character all the time.

Some older fans may never have accepted any Bond after Sean Connery but younger fans definitely don't have the same stubborn loyalties.  They are entertained by the tried-and-true formula of the James Bond movies and perhaps have never seen any of the movies starring Connery or Moore.

3) Keep Up With The Times

James Bond is old-fashioned but he can't be a fossil.  Like a business product or idea, the Bond franchise has to keep up with the times.  When the Cold War ended, Bond found other villains.  When the Shuttle made space travel easier in the 70's, Bond went into orbit. When technology changed, Bond adapted (even Q become a tech wizard in Spectre as opposed to the gadget wizard in the older films).

Customers and clients may sometimes say to leave things as they are, but it's a fast-changing world and nostalgia can't always play a major role.  As stated before, adapt but keep the essence.  A 2015 Ford Mustang is different in many ways from a 60's version but's still a Mustang.

4) Dream Insanely Big And You Just May Reach That Goal!

George Lazenby was 22 when he saw Dr. No on a date in 1962.  Seven years later, he was the new James Bond.  How did that happen?  He was from Australa, not England.  He had no acting experience.  He was the son of a railway worker, certainly a far cry from the suave British gentleman spy.  How did such an unknown take over such an iconic role that had unprecedented world-wide popularity?

According to the interview, Lazenby got the part because he wanted it, wanted it more than anyone else.  When he saw Dr. No, the date didn't quite work out as planned but he now had the goal of becoming the next James Bond.  Watch the video (it's just over 2 minutes) to see how a seemingly impossible goal can be reached simply through desire and perseverance.

If an unknown non-actor could replace an icon like Sean Connery to become the next James, then anything is certainly possible for anyone, if you want it.

Spectre was released in November 2015 and turned out to be one of the most successful films of that year.  The James Bond franchise has maintained its popularity ever since the first film in 1962.  There have been peaks and valleys and rumors of its demise over the years but following the simple rules of success have allowed it to thrive and likely be a viable force for another 50 years.

Bring on James Bond 25!

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