James Bond, in his 23rd film, Skyfall, has some valuable lessons to teach regarding marketing in the social media age.
I am frequently fond of the technique of using popular culture to revisit critical lessons on marketing and social media and Skyfall is too good an opportunity to pass up. A movie of two halves with a climactic finish that succeeds in breathing life into the franchise once again, the latest Bond movie also hits some pretty important marketing buttons.


Now if you have not seen the movie (or if you happen to not … gasp! … be a fan of James Bond) the lessons still work but then you miss out on the razzmatazz of thinking back on the scenes and making the connection.

Do we really need to jazz it up this way, you might ask. The answer, obviously, is no but it’s fun and seeing how there really is nothing new under the sun it makes the ever-necessary iteration of marketing principles, easier.

So, let’s go and see what Bond does that you should do better:

01.    The More Things Change the More They Remain the Same: In Skyfall much is made of the fact that the world has changed, espionage is no longer in the shadows, social media is creating a transparent world where spies (or traditional marketers in our case) are redundant. Obviously this is not quite so. Yes, the world has changed and yes social media has made the obvious top-down, controlled message approach to marketing, redundant, but that does not mean there is no need for command and control systems, guiding principles, a management structure or targets and performance reviews. All of these play a role which, in turn, allowed us to reach the desired outcome. In the new world order of marketing, just like in Skyfall’s new world of spies, the objectives have multiplied, the targets have fragmented and the tools at our disposal have become fewer thanks to cutbacks. Clever marketing, just like clever spying, has to be mindful, employing intelligence, agility and the ability to analyze, reassess and redeploy, on a dime.

02.    Do Not Fall Into the Shiny New Toys Trap: The Bond of yesteryear (just like marketing departments of the past) went out armed with a bagful of trinkets and a customized Aston Martin that was equipped to take on an army. All that is now gone. Bond is handed a pistol biocoded to himself only and a radio transmitter no bigger than a lighter. The tools we have to play with today are, indeed, more intelligent, interactive and ‘sexy’ but they frequently tend to distract our attention from the real target and what needs to be done. The minimalist approach to marketing where gadgets (and budgets) are concerned ensures that efficiency is squeezed out of every resource available. It also helps drive innovation and creative thinking. 

03.    Get Back to Basics: Facing his most formidable opponent yet, one who knows his every trick and is one step ahead of him thanks to advanced technology Bond turns the tables by taking things back where they began, in the relatively primitive, isolated world of his ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands. In many ways this is an extension of lesson one. Just because things change does not mean that the knowledge, experience and skill of the past is redundant. Quite the opposite in fact. There is a lot to be gained by remembering everything the past has so painfully taught us and successfully porting that knowledge into the new age.

04.    It’s Business As Usual But in a New World: The latest Bond film ends the way Bond films of the past began. Apart from this being a skillfully done reference to the franchise’s identity, now half a century old, it is also a reminder that if you know who you are, why you are in business and what your business is really there to do, then there is little that can confuse you. Whether you are in the business of spying or marketing (and I know they are worlds apart) the basic principles of what you have to do are the same. It’s your job to remain focused, understand what the inherent dynamics really are and then just do what needs to be done. I know we frequently say that the social media marketing age is the death of business as usual. That’s not really true. If your business was to create obfuscation, ignore target market requests and fail to take into account the shifts in your market vertical, yes, that way of behaving is now, finally, at an end. But businesses that are focused on creating value in their immediate community, of being an integral part of the world we are in and of constantly improving their way of operation, are always going to be in demand.

It’s all pretty basic, I know. Yet we manage to forget it all too quickly and frequently need to be reminded. And if you have not yet seen Skyfall, I highly recommend it.  

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