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.
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.
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.
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.’