007 is Back...and She’s Black: More Inclusion, More Audiences

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Fittingly titled Bond 25, the 25th bond movie is set for release in 2020, and it's already hitting headlines for reasons outside the usual buzz. Have you heard the rumors? 007 is back...and she's black.

It’s not a Bond movie without fast cars, big brands and beautiful women. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll find the archetype of a womanizing, white male, sipping on a vodka martini (shaken not stirred). But the question is...are audiences still interested?

In recent years, we’ve seen trends like #OscarsSoMale, #OscarsSoWhite, and #Metoo galvanize immense media attention. Thanks to social data and popular online opinion, the status quo is changing; especially in the world of cinema. 

In this post, we’ll take a quick look at a franchise spanning fifty-seven years, built on sex appeal, product placement and brand marketing. We'll also explore their latest attempt to stay relevant with a more inclusive cast, and what this all means for brands like yours.

Targeting an untapped audience

Let's clarify before we go on: the franchise didn’t suddenly replace James Bond with a black woman. MI6 merely assigned a new 007 agent to play alongside him. After much media speculation, it's been confirmed that actress Lashana Lynch will play the first ever female and black agent, in what has until now - only been a white, male role. While some find it long overdue, it generated mixed reactions online:

We know influencer marketing and tribes are recurring themes on this blog, but with good reason. It’s a current trend in millennial and Gen Z influencer marketing and we won’t let you forget it. These generations are far more empowered than their predecessors in terms of voice and consumer decision making. They search for representation and it’s down to brands to engage them on topics they care about, using authentic people they can relate to. 

First, let's take a snapshot of the ages and genders discussing the Bond franchise on social. Unsurprisingly, the most interested audiences are older males:

bond audience search
Source: Linkfluence Search

It's pretty evident that women, especially young women are an untapped audience, so for Bond to revive their brand we can see two opportunities: 1. Adjusting their male dominated image by championing positive gender portrayals and 2. Diversifying their lead cast in terms of color, gender and authenticity. Then they could achieve a few more tweets like the one below:

Agent 007 depicts the extravagant, action packed life of a secret spy and is by all means a form of escapism. But the problem may also be that his image is becoming less aspirational because of the huge focus on product placement.

Let's take a look at what that means.

Bond and his brands

The Bond brand has survived for decades, built on a winning formula. It's been continually innovative, scaleable and on trend, but recent figures suggest it’s time to try something new. The twenty-third movie Skyfall, was the highest earner of the whole franchise, making over a billion USD. The next and latest release, 007 Spectrum, fell to 880M, after spending an extra 45M on the budget.

What comes to mind when you think of Bond? A suave, sophisticated English gentleman... the list goes on. The entire franchise is built around this male sex symbol in a world where every man wants to be him...and every woman wants to be with him. And these associations are all thanks to copious amounts of repetitive product placement and brand marketing. Without brands there is no Bond.

Skyfall had one third of its movie budget paid for by Heineken in the form of £28M, going against Bond’s favorite Martini cocktail. Daniel Craig himself had to defend the decision saying, "We couldn't afford to make those movies if we didn't have those sponsors - it's a fact of life and it's been happening for the past 50 years”. In the same movie, he wore an Omega watch for the 7th time. He drove an Aston Martin for the tenth time, specifically an Aston DB5 as was the case in ‘Goldfinger’. Bond’s entire wardrobe was designed by Tom Ford, and he even used a Sony Xperia smartphone. We also can't forget that most of the marketing taking place highlights Bond’s English heritage, so much so that Daniel Craig stars in a VisitBritain tourism campaign aptly named "Bond is Great … Britain."

But what makes the film so successful is also its shortcoming. Older generations have already expressed negative opinion on inauthentic and untrue branding in relation to the original story line, as was the case with Heineken. And if you didn't already hear us, millennials and Gen Z are moving away from fake and OTT influencer marketing. 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Bond’s second female scriptwriter in the history of the franchise, even shared her desire for characters to be ‘more like real people’ , perhaps she'll help Lashana’s 007 do just that.

Inclusive casting -  marketing for tribe appeal

Part of the allure in these movies is seeing the main female character or Bond side-kick play an over-sexualized, love interest. They've become synonymous with the movies as ‘Bond girls’, adapted directly from Bond writer Ian Fleming’s novels. They tend to be in their early to mid 20’s, and at least 10 years younger than Bond. While many older generations want to stay true to Fleming's novels, arguing that #me too and toxic masculinity have gone too far, the fact is new generations care more about diversity, authentic representation and gender neutrality.

Source: GIPHY

Adapting 007 to a black female, is part of a well-thought-out strategy to increase growth, welcome new audiences, and tap into new product placement deals. Whether or not the franchise will address ‘authenticity’ and ‘relatability’ remains a curious mystery until the release.

So what's in store for the future of Bond? Some say the gig is up...and it's no secret that for many years, Daniel Craig has had one foot out the door. It's extremely unlikely this franchise could go on with Lashana Lynch as the main lead. The simple fact is, after 57 years of lucrative brand sponsorship, a new female lead just couldn't compete. But by breaking down the traditional 007 mold to include more inclusive casting - the franchise will surely win over hearts and potentially increase the diversity of it's audiences, that wouldn't otherwise have been reached with the archetypal Bond. Come back after April 2020 for our analysis!

To learn more on how to engage Gen Zs and Millennials, watch our live presentation: Marketing to Gen Z and Millenials: How To Connect With Young consumers Beyond Simple Demographics

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