With the imminent release of Skyfall kicking up a lot of fuss about product placement in movies, and Bond’s 50th anniversary celebrating the idea of film-as-cultural-capital, the Museum of Brands and Inside Out festival hosted an exploratory lecture last Wednesday on branding and marketing within the film industry. ‘Branding James Bond’ was a lecture and question-and-answer session led by Finola Kerrigan and Daragh O’Reilly, of King’s College London and Sheffield University respectively, whose academic paper on the film brandscape is soon to be published.
As well as the lecture, the Museum of Brands’ after-hours opening was a really great opportunity to check out the impressive brands and packaging collection of Robert Opie; 12 000 artefacts from the Victorian era into the future of branding – meat packaging made from recycled meat, what?! – the collection whets the appetite of anyone interested in branding whilst bringing a tear to the eye of those who fondly remember cereal packets of the 1970s.
The evening started with a 007 montage, but Kerrigan and O’Reilly used Bond more as a case study than a theme, a springboard into the ‘film brandscape’, their academic tool to decipher the world of branding and marketing opportunities which surround and help to create a film. Film franchises can not only endorse certain brands, but their intimate relationships with their consumers give them the DNA of brands in themselves. The brandscape of film is a complex one, as there are many components to be considered, requiring a delicate mixture of the current brand equities of each one. The actor-as-brand must be measured alongside the character-as-brand, and the current perceived brand personalities of the designer, composer, theme song singer, texts such as novels from which the film is adapted, locations used and many many more. These internal elements stand for only 1/5 of the film’s brandscape. The finished product, according to Kerrigan and O’Reilly, is the hefty sum of its standing as a commercial brand, a cultural brand, a studio brand, and a vehicle for other commercial brands, each with idiosyncrasies and ideologies.
Shared social norms are vital to create every stakeholder’s understanding of Bond. It is the fact that the shared norms in Bond are rooted down so strongly that the film-as-brand has such flexibility. Bond platforms range from video games to auctions at Christie’s, and Kerrigan flagged up the character’s playful scenes with the Queen at the 2012 London Olympics as proof for the brand’s robustness and flair. Bond has become intellectual as well as cultural capital, and right now it seems that the brand can do no wrong. Needless to say, however, Kerrigan’s and O’Reilly’s diagrams grew increasingly frequent and frenetic branches over the course of the evening.
The lecture managed to meld a very logical and academic consideration of branding, focussing on communication and the need for a holistic message, with the emotional aspects of a film, and all the stakeholder media relationships. It is worth looking at a brand through the prism of the film brandscape, to consider every element, address every possible partnership and see the brand company as a film studio, with individual standards and ideologies which must be matched. Perhaps, if brands begin creating their own filmic content in the style of Red Bull, we will see more of this kind of thinking.