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James Bond: Secret Agent, Ladies’ Man, and Brand Ambassador: Endorsement and Promotion from Fictional Characters

Celebrities inspire feverish obsession, as we learned from examining Steve McQueen’s influence on the fashion industry. Something as simple as which shirt they choose to wear in the morning may make a company millions. Like with Steve, it may be completely unintentional when the fashion industry becomes influenced by his choices, but nonetheless, they are. He was a living, breathing, actual person. Some of the items that became famous – and moreover, iconic – were items his onscreen personalities wore, but for the most part, it was his everyday apparel that became timeless staples. He wasn’t playing a role, but simply, being himself.

What about those influenced not by the people playing the roles, but the roles themselves?

No, I’m not implying you should run out, grab a bat suit, and start fighting crime. As we all learned in The Dark Knight, it usually doesn’t go very well for those types, and moreover, it pisses Batman off something fierce. So, even if we’re unable to act like our favorite fictional characters, we are able to dress like them. Drive the same cars. Drink the same drinks.

Bond flaunts more than some killer card-playing skills at the Poker table.

Bond flaunts more than some killer card-playing skills at the Poker table.

When it comes to an opulent lifestyle, albeit, one constantly on the run, no other character is as well-known as MI-6 secret agent, James Bond. This man that author Ian Fleming made up, out of thin air, has made countless, and I mean countless things iconic. Not only that, but desirable, too: almost as soon as a Bond film comes out in theatres, men often will begin asking for clothes in the style of what they saw onscreen. They’ll try shaking-up (NOT STIRRING!) a signature cocktail they saw their idol sipping on. The trend began with the franchise: when Frank Abagnale, Jr. has a suit custom-tailored for him in the 1960’s period drama Catch Me If You Can, he asks specifically for the grey three-piece Connery wore in Goldfinger. More simply put? Women wanted him, and men wanted to be him.

If you don’t think people take this seriously, well, think again: a website called “James Bond Lifestyle” serves as an authority on nearly everything Bond uses and enjoys. That espresso maker from 1973’s Live and Let Die we see in his apartment? Oh, that’s a La Pavoni Europiccola espresso machine. Yeah. The folks behind this website don’t mess around. Not only do they know what brand it is, but have gone so far to include a screencap of its use in the film, along with hyperlinks. Purchase it on eBay or Amazon. Read up on the history of the company on their own website. Read customer reviews. Instruction manual? They’ve one of those in there, for good measure. Even a list of parts, too!

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a brand snob – to use the term – and will vocally note when I see a particular brand I like on the television, or in a film. The aforementioned website, however, takes a meticulous attention to detail and zooms-in with it to an almost microscopic scale. You name it, and if Bond’s used or worn it, it’s on the website.

His favorites are almost synonymous with his name: Aston Martin cars, Rolex (now Omega) wristwatches, Walther handguns. You can’t so much as utter their names, or take a glance at them, and NOT think of James Bond. Omega even lists the character (not the actor!) as an official ambassador of their products.

Celebrating (I guess?) this obsession and passion for any and all things Bond, The Barbican (Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue) is hosting an exhibit called “Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style,” complete with a – I kid you not – martini bar featuring a selection of “Bond-style” cocktails, encouraging visitors to “…experience the Bond lifestyle for real.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise, stemming from the release of Dr. No in 1962, to the latest film coming to theatres this November, Skyfall. If you thought McQueen had staying power, well, Bond’s got him beat – by miles. Well, kilometers (Or is it kilometres? You get the idea). The Bond franchise is not only the longest running film franchise, but more importantly, the most successful.

Why?

This exhibit answers the question, aided by displays detailing not only the pre-production process (storyboard and set artwork), but the finished product, too (gadgets, weapons, and costume pieces). The list of label-worth names is staggering, reading almost as a “Who’s Who” in men’s fashion: Giorgio Armani, Brioni, Roberto Cavalli, Tom Ford, Hubert de Givenchy, Gucci’s Frida Giannini, Miuccia Prada, Oscar de la Renta, and Donatella Versace…to name a few.

Only James Bond could stand in front of a car like an Aston Martin and completely upstage it.

Only James Bond could stand in front of a car like an Aston Martin and completely upstage it.

The trend continues, as Giorgio Armani was personally responsible for suiting-up Batman’s alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, in 2008’s The Dark Knight, as well as the series finale, The Dark Knight Rises. Coincidentally, Daniel Craig’s James Bond prefers the same 2-button suits Bruce Wayne does; only his will be designed by Tom Ford (for Skyfall). Who wouldn’t want to wear the same suit as a superhero? It’s a smart move that can only boost sales, simultaneously promoting both brands at the same time.

50 years of the finest, and only the finest, for James Bond.

With a very discernible and expensive palette, his choices are all relative to another: if Bond is sitting in a car worth a third of a million dollars, he probably should be wearing an equally-expensive, bespoke suit, and keeping time with a Swiss-made, luxury watch. Trust me, James Bond’s not going to save the day with a Casio on his wrist and some duds from the outlet mall. He may not always have been a film character, but he always has been a well-dressed, well-spoken, Alpha-male.

The character gets the job done, and gets it done all while looking good. How many people do you know that are not only able to save the world, but sell luxury items while they’re doing it?

Cheers, James, to 50 years of many missions accomplished and millions made.

Open to the public now through September 5, 2012, “Designing 007” will be on display at the Barbican Center in London. Standard admission is f12. Be sure to bring another f10 for the martini bar. And, yes, you can choose to have your drink shaken or stirred.

Have you ever been influenced by a particular brand or product used by a fictional character? What are some of your favorite associations between characters and the products they use? Have you ever personally purchased an item because it was featured in a film?

Image credit to johanoomen. Aston Martin photo is a screenshot from ‘Goldfinger.’


Eric Labanauskas

Eric is a data entry specialist and contributing writer for the QLP Blog Squad. He is a city boy with a country heart, with an appetite for anything chicken-fried. He has studied as an apprentice at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, performed across the country as Buddy Holly in "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story," and can tie a bow tie by himself without the aid of a mirror. 1950's rock 'n roll is his soundtrack, especially while on road-trips with his lovely girlfriend. Suffice it to say, he is also the owner of some good cocktail party stories from his many experiences. You can also connect with Eric on Google+.

Comments

  1. Cybernetic SAM

    Yeah I have been influenced by a film before, I was addicted to Doritos, Pepsi, Pizza Hut and Aspirin after watching Wayne’s World for some reason….

    Just kidding I think everyone has film icons that we are a little influenced by but don’t want to admit (Just ask Jill about her hooded cape and elven leaf brooch she wears on the weekends). You weren’t kidding though about Bond being one of the most identifiable influences in pop culture. Even internationally his persona translates, I mean look at the HUGE controversy just over talk of the beer instead of a martini made. People were more enraged about that then starving children in their own neighborhoods.

    Needless to say when done the right way when people can either identify or strongly admire then the result is usually some sort of fashion or culture movement. It really is amazing the push and pull film and television have globally. I wonder what would happen if Bond became eco friendly and started driving a Nissan Leaf instead of a Aston Martin…. Would the world change?

    • Eric

      Bond in a Nissan Lead? You know, if they put him behind the wheel of a Ford if only to transition between scenes, you never know if they’re be beyond putting him in something eco-friendly.

      Bond is a huge, HUGE influence on fashion alone. Wearing braces (suspenders) with a tux? “Casino Royale.” Diamond-tip-ended bow ties? “Quantum of Solace.” I think, too – as he was to Ian Fleming – Bond represents this imaginary existence men wish their lives would be, and in that idyllic world, how could Bond possibly ever, ever drink a crappy beer?

      Aston Martin, in the meantime, needs to engineer a hybrid vehicle. And send one to me as a thank you for the idea. You’re welcome, Aston Martin. You’re very welcome.

      Thanks for the read and the comments, Sam! :)

  2. Rachel

    Loving this article, Eric! Fictional characters absolutely affect our spending habits and influence the styles we adopt for ourselves. The first example that came to my mind while reading this comes from The Avengers — Iron Man makes a memorable quip (followed by a funny after-credits scene) about shawarma, which allegedly led to a surge in shawarma sales in LA. And it wasn’t even an official product placement!

    Congrats to any brands able to attach themselves to popular fictional characters, as that seems to be an ideal position to be in — especially if we’re talking about characters like James Bond and Batman who have fan bases willing to spend a lot of money in order to emulate their heroes. Though I don’t go around buying ridiculously expensive suits and cars, I do make many purchases based off fictional characters and stories — so I know from experience that this kind of brand endorsement works. :) Thanks for the fun post, Eric!

    • Eric

      THAT’S where the shawarma kick came from. Was wondering! I’d ask how that differs from a gyro spit, but I guess that’s another argument for another day. :) Props to RD Jr. if that was an ad-libbed line that caused all the hype.

      Diesel just introduced two wristwatches inspired by TDKR, one for Batman, one for Bane, both selling for over $300. I love that film – evinced by seeing a third time this month – but man, the lengths and depths some people are willing to go is amazing.

      I’ll admit, without hesitation, I may not buy the exact items and brands the fictional characters I look up to use, but I will find the equivalent within my price bracket and purchase accordingly.

      Now I have a taste for shawarma. Damnit, Robery Downey, Jr.!!!!

      Thanks for the read and comments, Rachel! :)

  3. amy

    I had never thought about fictional characters being used as brand ambassadors before, Eric. But you’re totally right! I notice which cars are driven in movies for some reason and that plays a much bigger role than normal in my brand perception of them. For the longest time I hated Mercedes because that’s what Pierce Brosman’s character drove in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ and he was “the bad guy” in my mind at the time I saw it in theaters, hahaha!

    You’ve got me thinking now about other fictional brand ambassadors now. Great job!!

    • Eric

      Haha, funny thought, Amy, although I never did think of the ways in which it works to the detriment of a brand. Would be hilarious to see some Bond villain or the like have a huge affinty toward Pepsi. Product-placement smear campaigns. :) Just last night I noticed the Under Armor/Doritos/Xfinity ads on the Pittsburgh Steelers scoreboard in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Even when they don’t mean to, it sneaks in, somehow. Looks like Bane’s done ruined the market for shearling-lined coats. Oh, well. :) Thanks for the read and comments, Amy!

      • Mandy Kilinskis

        Ha! I noticed those on the scoreboard, too! I really wanted Doritos for the rest of the night, despite the terrorizing situation that Doritos were presented to me.

        • Eric

          Bane may steal control of a city away from its people, but he’ll never posess a craving for Doritos like the one Gotham has.

  4. Jenna Markowski

    Awesome post, Eric! Like Amy, I had never really thought of fictional character as a brand ambassador, but of course that’s the case! Naturally, James Bond’s look is classic. I’ve never even seen a James Bond movie (I know. Shame me.), but I can recognize brands and items associated with him.

    I can’t really think of any other examples of this off the top of my head (minus Rachel’s shawarma example. +10 points!). But I’m sure there are all kinds of fictional characters who have influenced my purchasing decisions.

    • Eric

      I don’t even think the United States would know what a Lotus was, had it not been for the Roger-Moore-era “Bond” films (It’s a British sports car). I guess it makes sense the films are as

      I guess it works out. If I tried to purchase most of Bruce Wayne’s assets, I’d be broke with the click of a mouse (as we learned the other day, Batman is a 600M dollar operation).

      Thanks for the read and comments, Jenna! :)

  5. Mandy Kilinskis

    Okay. So. I know next to nothing about cars, and I really don’t care much about them, but every time I see a Transformers movie, I feel the need to drop what I’m doing and buy Bumblebee Camaro. It’s lucky I’m not in the market for a car right now, because I would have bought one.

    • Eric

      I don’t like Chevy. At all. I HATE the design of the new Camaro, especially given just how slick the original was. However, once it had an association with a very honorable, noble character (albeit a robot) and came in “Go **** Yourself Yellow,” I have to admit…it started looking a heck of a lot cooler.

  6. Valerie McEvoy

    Well, you can’t go wrong with a tuxedo and an Aston Martin. I have to say that my husband sticks with classic two button notch lapel tuxedos. Unfortunately, the sports car is out of budget until we sell a few more houses!

  7. Americas Best

    Thanks for the interesting read and here’s a proof statement here for you Eric, although no additional evidence required of course. Today I was researching a blog article on wallpaper of all topics and honest to goodness we reviewed a website for our list that highlighted a Diamonds are Forever wallpaper collection – that’s Sean Connery ’71 by the way. Yes, they made the feature.

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