7 Business Lessons From 007

Whatever images you conjure upon hearing those immortal words–world’s most dashing spy, ladies man with a license to kill, secret agent man with the best gadgets–the phrase “successful product” probably doesn’t come to mind.

But that’s exactly what it is. Since 1952, when Ian Fleming published the first Bond book, the British spy has been the focus of novels, the occasional obscure radio and TV production, a few ‘unofficial’ feature films, and 21 movies produced by EON Productions, spearheaded by Barbara Broccoli, who took over the business after her father, Albert (“Cubby”), passed away in 1996. And while Bond may be pure entertainment and a pop icon to most, at the risk of sucking all the joy out of one of Hollywood’s most enduring adventure heroes, he’s no different than Goodyear snow tires or Folgers coffee: Bond is a brand.

He (the character) is also an entrepreneur, at least in spirit. His salary comes from his Majesty’s Secret Service, but on the rare occasion a world scandal erupts, forcing his employer to drop him from payroll, he’s worked for himself until he dispatches with the bad guys and gets back in his company’s good graces. He also has a business mindset, frequently networking and making deals, to either prevent himself from getting killed or to save the world.

Business Lesson #1:Every product or service reinvents itself–or should.
Sure, there are probably exceptions, but generally, even if a product is perfect, Sometimes you change the packaging, says customer service guru Paul Kowal of Kowal & Associates Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in customer service call centers.

Aunt Jemima is probably the classic example, says Kowal, explaining that while the recipes for the pancake mixes and syrups don’t likely change much from year to year, the visual image of Aunt Jemima has been updated three or four times over the years to look more appealing to a younger audience.

The important thing for a business owner to know is how to reinvent oneself–that’s where the James Bond franchise has been very successful. Many fans, for instance, think of Roger Moore’s light-hearted touch as the ultimate Bond; others feel those years were a dark period in the series. Regardless, all the films have had a very successful run because the films follow what could be called the “movement and time formula,” says Michael Lovas, founder of AboutPeople, a consulting firm that focuses on helping companies and individuals more thoroughly understand, attract and connect with their A-level clients.

Movement and time, says Lovas, repeating the two hallmarks that every entrepreneur should remember when reinventing their product or service. What stays the same with Bond? Mainly movement, says Lovas. Hot chicks, action, danger, gadgets–they’re in every book and film. What changes? Time. Everything’s up to date. None of the films are period pieces based in the past.

“In your own business, use the same formula,” Lovas suggests. “What needs to remain the same? Movement–quality service, personal touch, quick response. And what changes? Anything that can date your products and services, or show them to be out of date.

Business Lesson #2: Never forget your core customers.
Film producer Barbara Broccoli told IF Magazine that when they were planning this film, they thought a lot about the last film, Die Another Day, and what was wrong with it. While hugely successful, the producers felt it had reached a point where things were getting out of hand–for instance, Bond drove in an invisible car. They wanted to bring the franchise back to the gritty sensibility that the books and, to some extent, the early films had displayed.

We felt the world had changed, Broccoli said. The world was much more serious, and we were trying to figure out where to go.

Nevertheless, Broccoli didn’t try to completely reinvent Bond, destroying everything that everyone loved about him and completely starting over. And that’s a good thing, as far as Peter Shankman is concerned. Shankman is the CEO of full-service PR firm The Geek Factory, and author of the just released, Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work And Why Your Company Needs Them.

Remember that your fans have made you what you are, says Shankman, offering advice to any entrepreneur rethinking their product or service. Never forget about them. When you’re reinventing yourself, do so with them in mind. Bond’s gun might get smaller and more accurate, but he still sleeps with it under his pillow.

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