According to Johan Kruger, Head of Context at Consulta, a brand promise happens on a subconscious level when someone or something becomes trusted by consistently delivering a good experience. It happens repeatedly, creating the expectation – even if on a sub-conscious level – that it will always be so. This branded experience happens spontaneously and is not typically the result of an expressed slogan or advertisement.

Of late there has been renewed interest in Ian Flemming’s spy masterpiece, James Bond 007. In fact, this has happened repeatedly since the very first Bond movie hit the silver screens in the 1960s. Sadly, Sean Connery, the original James Bond, has passed away, and ‘No Time to Die’, the 25th Bond movie and the fifth and final time we will see Daniel Craig as 007, has been delayed thanks to Covid-19. 

This renewed interest does not only attract the boomer die-hards who were mesmerised with the release of Dr No way back in 1963, featuring a dapper and handsome Connery. Since then, we have had George Lazenby (who?), then back to Sean Connery, then Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. 

Each Bond actor is carefully evaluated and chosen against a set of universally accepted criteria of what makes the perfect ‘007’, with acting, cinematography, special effects and a plot that is standardised and expected, albeit injected with new creative flair and drama.  In fact, James Bond 007 is probably one of the best examples of what a branded customer experience is all about, and marketers and brand owners can draw great lessons from 007.  

The brand designer and founder of Landor, Walter Landor, is often quoted in discussions on brands and branding as saying: ‘Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.’ Over the years this has been modified to ‘Products are made in factories, but brands are built in people’s hearts.’ This modification happened spontaneously and reflects the emotional connection that people develop for products and experiences that are reliable and almost predictable.

A product becomes a brand the moment that it can ensure one fundamental principle: consistency. Think of any brand that you like or that you are loyal to. You buy it because you know exactly what you are getting. A branded experience takes the concept further in the sense that there is consistency. In this, there is an interesting social phenomenon, namely the concept of a brand promise.   

Let us have a look at the concept of a branded experience by unpacking the James Bond 007 experience. True to form, there is always:

  • Hi-impact opening scenes.
  • Fast cars that most of us can only dream about.
  • Beautiful women.
  • Suspense.
  • The latest, greatest tech gadgetry and spy gear.
  • Action, action, action!
  • An intriguing storyline.
  • A treacherous villain, typically Russian.
  • The good guy that always saves the day, and often the world.

And yet, for all its predictability in the plot and characters, Flemming created one of the most iconic branded experiences ever. An experience that sees people queuing outside movie theatres (Covid aside) and breaking blockbuster records with every new release.  007 is an institution, a consistent one, but an institution, nonetheless.

In applying the 007 branded experience principles to your brand, consider how you will apply the same consistency to your brand experience as 007 does, with a huge dose of creativity. 

This is based on a three-step process:

Step 1: experiencing the brand

What do customers experience when they interact with your brand that goes beyond meeting their expectations and perceptual measurement? While these are both important factors, we also have to evaluate the customer journey in terms of ‘psychological contracting’. This is one of the most underrated concepts in customer experience management.

A psychological contract refers to the often-unspoken set of expectations and assumptions that two parties have of each other. Business functionaries often stand amazed when the number of potential psychological contracts, or the lack thereof, are found not only in their marketing messages but also in normal interactions with the brand. 

This is actually quite easy to identify. One particular example that comes to mind is insurance. One of the first psychological contracts takes place at the point where a client takes out an insurance policy. While the policy document is a written contract of terms and conditions of cover, there is also a psychological contract that gains prominence in the client’s mind when they submit a claim. 

The claims journey does not start at the point where the client suffers a loss or damage. It starts at the point where the policy was taken out and the customer’s expectations and trust that claims will be settled in future are established. These expectations stem from a psychological contract with the insurance company that claims will be paid and the client will be protected from the financial consequences of such risks. The terms and conditions are not always entertained at this point.

Step 2: branding the experience

This step involves the identification of the moments in the customer journey that can be designed and managed to a level of consistency. Again, it is important not to automatically think in terms of standardisation. Although standardisation is an important component of consistency in terms of look and feel, it does not imply mere duplication. 

What are the branded elements in the James Bond 007 movies? Each movie has its unique storyline, setting, world threat and characters in the role of James Bond. The fundamental elements are consistently overlaid with new creative takes, but the principles are unwavering. It is these underlying elements or principles of your brand that you need to find, retain and maintain.

Step 3: a branded experience.

Delivering a truly branded experience does not happen overnight – ask Apple, Amazon and Toyota. It requires a dedicated and consistent effort throughout every aspect of the supply chain from origination into the hands of the customer. 

It is arduous and relentless of:
– Making the promise (brand).
– Enabling the promise (experience).
– Keeping the promise (Customer Lifetime Management).

This is what lies at the heart of great Customer Experience Management.