The new MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE film looks like a big success. Audience reviews are extremely positive and the indications are that this will the biggest grossing film for the franchise. After 22 years and 6 instalments the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE brand health and sales are strong.
There is no doubt the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE brand has been carefully managed. But, as I will explain later, a tougher mission awaits Tom & Paramount – should they choose to accept, of course. However, let’s first acknowledge some effective brand management:
1. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE knows and has nurtured many of its distinctive assets
Those responsible for MiSSION: IMPOSSIBLE know its distinctive assets – ensuring a recognizable link with the original TV series. The famous theme tune punctuates the action, the self destructing tape recorder is untouched by digital progress and the familiar “your mission should you choose” is accurately retained. Astutely, the MI logo abbreviation featured in early films has been replaced with the full name.
Distinctive original elements are prominent in plot and action. Unlike Bond or Bourne you’ll see a team with a relish for disguises and masks that dates back to the TV series.
2. The brand has delivered on core category benefits
The MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE brand’s category is action – so the innovation department’s job is more and bigger nail biting action for the price of your ticket. This appears to have been achieved with FALLOUT – the latest film. Alongside helicopters, motor bike or speed boat chases and tall building jumps we have the first actor to perform a 25,000 feet sky dive. With a production budget believed to be $250 million Tom and team have invested $100 million more in a superior core benefit.
3. The MI and Tom Cruise brand partnership supports a stronger proposition
Scientology and sofa jumps have dented Cruise’s credibility but despite this the partnership supports a stronger and more distinct combined proposition. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is the ideal vehicle for Tom Cruise’s action hero brand credentials that are supported by a unique commitment to doing his own ever bigger stunts. In return MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE delivers authentic, high risk (and ankle breaking) action that CGI dependent franchises ‘fake’.
But there remains a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sized challenge for Paramount and Tom
The MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise is some way behind Marvel, Star Wars, James Bond and (depressingly) Transformers when it comes to box office revenue. The current film will move the brand up the league table, but further successful instalments will be more problematic.
Despite featuring an ‘Impossible Mission Force’ (IMF) the brand lacks stretch potential without established and distinctive characters to develop. The Ethan Hunt hero is transparently Tom Cruise – a 56 year old actor with a very high life insurance premium (who, to his credit, looks capable of a few more films).
The transition to a new lead actor has been achieved with Bond (and the original MI TV series), but Cruise’s ownership of the role makes it a risky investment for a brand that depends on expensive action scenes. The fact that revenue growth is coming from pay for TV content rather than cinema attendance makes any decision more difficult. It really seems we could be nearing the end of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film franchise.
Perhaps someone at Paramount some time back should have pushed to develop a distinctive IMF collection of characters to facilitate a successful stretch to TV or line extensions? Perhaps they are now? However, it is possible they have decided it would be a mission not worth accepting.