Thursday, December 13, 2012

7 Ways To Build An Association Brand Like Bond

Note: With express permission from
Ken Carbone,  cofounder and chief creative director of the Carbone Smolan Agency, this post is based on Ken's FastCompany story titled 7 Ways to Build a Brand Like Bond.

Under SCD, you'll find my questions and comments about “lessons for associations” based on each of Ken's seven points from Bond.

James Bond might be British, but his brand strategies are universal. Here are 007 tips to ensure your association brand is shaken, not stirred.

With a bang, the 23rd James Bond film will open in U.S. theaters on November 9, and no doubt it will be a blockbuster like all the films from this franchise. The media buzz has already begun, and actor Daniel Craig will attempt to once again put his edgy stamp on the iconic character. But the Bond "brand" is much bigger than any one actor. It is built on a solid and winning formula that has worked for more than 50 years. It's totally scalable, always on trend, and continually innovative. A close look at James Bond as a brand reveals seven universal lessons that are applicable to any company in search of brand stardom:

1. The Story.
Every great brand must have a great story, and Bond's is bulletproof. You don't have to tell it like Ian Fleming, but you need a story that builds a loyal following and makes people come back for more. A compelling story helps create the emotional attachment to a brand, and the right balance of the familiar and the new is at the heart of all great storytelling. From the opening action sequence, you know what to expect from Bond, and he delivers, always with an added element of surprise.

  • SCD: What is your association’s story? Is it clear & concise? Do your members and prospects know it? Does it create an emotional attachment? 
2. The Style.
Successful brands recognize that looking good is part of doing business in a design-conscious world. Purchasing decisions are driven by both utility and aesthetics, whether it's a watch or a running shoe. Customers wear the "style badge" as a way of saying "I have good taste." Every one of the six James Bond actors used style as one of his weapons. From the impeccable tuxedo and the perfect martini to exotic locations and luxury hotels, being "uber cool" is an integral part of the Bond brand. If good design is not part of your company strategy, don't expect your products to perform like Bond.

  • SCD: Does your association have a consistent style? Do you have “your color?” Think John Deere Green.  Do you use this style and color throughout your organization and its “publications” (including website)? 
3. The Team. 
Bond has more than M.I.6. as backup; he also has a bevy of brands always willing and ready for the golden touch of 007. Aston Martin, Sony, Playboy, British Airways, Smirnoff, Omega and, in Skyfall, Heineken. In the case of BMW, a Bond film was used to launch a new Model Z sports car. It's rumored that this next film will have more product placement than any previous one. This may make some purists cringe, but it's a win/win arrangement that helps cover the enormous cost of these films. It's a 1+1=3 approach to branding that allows like strategic partners to add value to a collective brand experience for customers.

  • SCD: Who is on your team? Are you collaborating with other associations, nonprofits and/or companies that have a common mission and provide you the synergy of Bond’s 1+1=3 formula? I've been part of the Ag Media Summit, a collaborative annual event of the American Agricultural Editors Association, ABM AgriCouncil and Livestock Publications Council ... an awesome example of the 1+1=3 collaboration and results.
4. The Sex. 
Sex is not your typical corporate brand pillar, but for the Bond brand, it is key. With no apologies, the Bond brand is built for men. It knows its loyal male following well and has made the "Bond girl" a cultural icon second only to James himself. From the moment a bikini clad Ursula Andress stepped out of the surf in Dr. No in 1962, sex has become an integral part of the Bond brand "toolkit." This might not be essential if you're selling smartphones, soft drinks, or vacuum cleaners, but knowing what drives consumers to your brand is. Even the irrepressible Ms. Moneypenny knows what James really wants.

  • SCD: Well, sex probably is not appropriate for most associations. But, do you know (I mean really know) what your members and prospects want from your association. Do you know it even before they do? 
5. The Technology. 
Behind every Bond there is a "Q," the techno wizard that equips James with the coolest "toys" for him to decimate his foe. A machine-gun-fitted Aston Martin for Sean Connery and the new palm sensor pistol for Daniel Craig are just some of the gadgets that Bond, with his fetish for technology, gets to take for a spin. Additionally, the opening film titles have always been technically innovative, including designer Robert Brownjohn's famous projected type on a shimmering body for Goldfinger in 1964. In the recent Quantum of Solace, fantastical use of touch screen communications was pervasive in the film. Embracing high tech is a no brainer for fueling any forward-moving brand in business today. If you don't, you do so at your peril.

SCD: Are you mobile? Does your website uses responsive (some say adaptive) technology? Have you developed and implemented a social media strategy to reach members and prospects there while increasing your position as a thought leader in your industry or profession?

6. The Media.
Every Bond episode is much more of a cultural event than just a film, and the cross-media opportunities seem boundless. The title song? Great artists have always stepped forward to set the films' mood, including Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Alicia Keys and, now, Adele for Skyfall. In publishing, Playboy will surely have a feature. There will be a game for Xbox. MoMA has already launched its 50th anniversary of Bond film series. And, who could forget the Bond and Queen Elizabeth's "skyfall" at the opening of the 2012 Olympics? Timing is everything, and a seize-the-moment strategy to maximize brand exposure may be the open shot you need.

  • SCD: Are you the thought leader that the media (general, professional and/or trade) rely on for information and news? Do you have a “strong” and transparent internal and external media strategy? Do you have a crisis communications plan? Do you conduct regular content and communications audits? Does your association have a blog? Do you update it at least two or three times a month?
7. The Logo.
It's a classic. The clever 007 number fused with a silhouette of a pistol designed by Joseph Caroff in 1962 has proven staying power. It appeared in the first Bond film, Dr. No, and has been used in every film since. In an age when logos can be pulled off of clip art files on the Internet, the Bond logo is a testament to designing it right the first time for it to last. Couple this with the film's twangy guitar theme and you have the best in sonic branding too. Well-designed logos become iconic when the brand they represent delivers outstanding quality consistently over a sustained period of time. For over a half century, the 007 logo has done just that.
  • SCD: Do members, prospects and key audiences recognize your logo? Is your logo fresh or does it need to be refreshed? Does it work well in print and electronic communications/publications? 
The winning brand formula offered by the James Bond model works brilliantly for this Hollywood franchise. What about for your association? 

Any of these seven lessons will give you more than enough ammunition to conquer your competition and build an outstanding association. 

Special thanks to Ken Carbone, cofounder and chief creative director of the Carbone Smolan Agency, whose clients include Tiffany & Co., W.L. Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie’s, Nonesuch Records, the W Hotel Group, the Museé du Louvre, The Museum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art. He is the author of The Virtuoso: Face to Face with 40 Extraordinary Talents, and his new book written with business partner Leslie Smolan, Design: What Makes a Great Design Partnership, in stores now.  

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