Fresh consistency: Mission Impossible?

The Taylor family all had a fun night out on Sunday to see Mission Impossible (5): Rogue Nation, at the fantastic iMax cinema in London's Waterloo (the biggest screen in Europe, and worth a trip if you're in London). You can click below on the blog to watch the trailer.

Tom Cruise and team have done a great job of creating "fresh consistency" with the MI franchise over its almost 20 year history. The MI box office revenues show how well this has worked. The first four MI movies have made a reported $2.5 billion worldwide, with MI: Rogue Nation already approaching half a billion by end August.

So, what can we learn from this multi-billion dollar blockbuster franchise?

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1. Upgrade your core product

A key factor in keeping the MI business growing over two decades has been constant upgrading of the core product. You might expect that as the franchise gets on to its third, fourth and fifth iteration the quality would drop. However, critical rating of the MI movies has increased over time, with MI 5: Rogue Nation and MI 4: Ghost Protocol both getting over 90% approval ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. This is a result of investing in the script, crew, cast and production.

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2. Build and reinforce distinctive properties

When it comes to creating and reinforcing distinctive brand properties, MI gives James Bond a damn good run for his money. An amusing article in The Times, "How to make your own Mission Impossible movie", covers 13 such properties. Rather than making viewers bored, we look forward to and expect these ingredients in each MI movie. Here are a few examples: 

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MI music: the famous MI music from the original TV series is a consistent property, though less used in MI 5 versus the original movie; a trick missed versus James Bond.

Ethan Hunt and team: the lead character and his sidekick, Ving Rhames’s tech-related hacker Luther Stickell, have been in every movie since the first one in 1996, complemented by new team members each time.

Daredevil stunts, done by Tom himself!: As The Times article explains, "These have become the raison d’être for the entire franchise. Cruise went from jumping in front of an exploding fish tank in MI 1 to a cliff-top plunge in MI 2, through to a sick-making climb along Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower in MI 4. In MI 5, he holds on to the side of an Airbus A400M as it climbs to 5,000ft." 

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 17.56.29Ethan in a vest or topless: Cruise has got braver about baring his body, despite his advancing years, as The Times article says, "In Missions 1 and 2 it was a vest, but somewhere around Mission 4, just as he was about to turn 50, Cruise decided to go the whole hog and to spend a considerable amount of screen time wearing no top at all".

Countdown: The ticking clock is a key device in each Mission movie, with countdowns used for many purposes 

Motorbikes, lots of motorbikes:  "The franchise went bike crazy in Mission 2 with an epic, noisy and slightly overlong bike-chase climax and there was a  Hunt-on-a-bike scene in Mission 3," as the Times article explains. "And the bikes are back in Mission 5 with a vengeance… a chaotic, pell-mell, five-bike road pursuit along the outskirts of Marrakesh."

3. Refresh what made you famous

Cruise has been smart about how to keep MI fresh, starting with the cast From MI 3 onwards he added UK comic actor Simon Pegg to the mix as the tech expert fall guy, add extra humour. And each movie has some leading stars appearing, such as Alec Baldwin in Rogue Nation and Philip Seymour Hoffman in MI 3.

The role of women has been updated, as it has in James Bond. "The women were victims or femmes fatales in MI 1,  fluff in MI 2 and a trainee in MI 3," according to the Times article. "Then finally, hallelujah, MI 4 delivered an ass-kicking female character and MI 5 has  followed suit with the Swedish-born TV star Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa, the lethal weapon in Hunt’s arsenal."

In conclusion, Tom Cruise and crew shown the multi-billion dollar benefits of amplifying and refreshing distinctive brand properties to create fresh consistency.