James Bond Brand Shaken By Product Placement

Mark RitsonOctober 23, 20083 min

That wonderful biennial branding event known as a Bond movie is upon us again, and we will have to endure a cavalcade of mundane brands engaged in a series of inappropriate product placements, demeaning the film.

Far more entertaining is to watch these brands disguise the amounts paid to Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, while simultaneously attempting to construct an authentic and exclusive connection between their brand and James Bond.

The mission is impossible. The real Bond, conjured up by author Ian Fleming in the 50s, was the opposite of today’s superficial consumer. He was a connoisseur. That might sound like he would take photos of his bottle of Bollinger with his new Sony Ericsson cameraphone, but the reality is, and was, very different.

For starters, connoisseurs don’t have routines. Their tastes are too wide and rich to be sated by consuming the same stuff all the time. In Bond’s first outing, in the book Casino Royale, he consumes an Americano, a cognac and water, a Martini, several bottles of vintage Champagne and some brandy. The idea of sticking to one drink – even for one evening – would bore him to tears.

Bond is also no brand loyalist. Like all connoisseurs, he varies his brand of choice depending on the mood, the company and the occasion. The brazen manner in which Bollinger has paid for the right to claim Bond as brand-loyal smacks of everything that is wrong about product placement.

Yes, Bond likes Bollinger. When Tiffany Case sends a quarter bottle to his cabin in Diamonds are Forever, he drinks it. But 007 had already also established strong preferences for Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Pol Roger and Taittinger on earlier missions.

Pinning Bond to one brand is as pointless as asking him to settle down with one woman. The same is true of the ridiculous desire to link Bond exclusively with Aston Martin cars. He likes them, but before he drove one, he was speeding around in Bentleys – and his first car was a Sunbeam Alpine.

Bond goes beyond the advertising sheen and has a deeper knowledge of the products he consumes. He does not just like Dom Perignon, he knows its vintages. In Goldfinger, he expertly recognizes not only the brand and vintage of the ‘disappointing’ Cognac he is served, but also explains why it is so poor. Like all connoisseurs, Bond also likes to create his own beverages and is regularly found instructing barmen and waiters on how to make something special just for him, rather than accept mass-marketed offerings.

Heineken is currently spending millions to try to create a global consistency in which its beer appears wherever Bond goes, but the real 007 would find that insufferable. His tastes change with his location. In Kentucky he drinks bourbon, in Athens it’s ouzo, in Belgrade slivovitz. Rather than conform to dreary global branding, he enjoys the intricate pleasures of local cultures and products.

In short, Bond is a marketer’s nightmare. He is a man of his own tastes who cares not a jot for loyalty, convention or consistency. He would be the last man on earth to approve of, or be influenced by, ‘entertainment marketing’ and its godawful principles of ‘seamless integration’ and ‘global reach’.

Remember that when you settle into your cinema seat for Quantum of Solace and hear the familiar theme start up. If you listen carefully, you will also hear the darker, more distant sound of Ian Fleming, who was the real Bond long before he created him, turning elegantly in his grave.

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Mark Ritson


  • John Mahaffie

    October 23, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Great post, with strong lessons. Business’ notion of brand loyalty is its goal, not the consumer’s. Businesses need to take the consumer point of view and understand that.

  • Peter Korchnak

    October 23, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the great post, lots to think about at the intersection of branding and James Bond (brand) fandom.

    Global brands have a global-consumer outlook, which forgets that consumers are individuals with idiosyncratic preferences, histories, and hearts-and-minds leading lives local communities. In our own little worlds, we all are connoisseurs. Not consumers, but customers and connected individuals.

  • Ari Herzog

    October 23, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Despite the novels’ Bond physically looking the same in every story, his routines as you expertly describe are indeed anything but.

    Perhaps the humor of brand loyalty lies in the fact of the number of actors to play 007 in recent years?

    With one vision, there are many strategies but with multiple visions, there is one strategy.

    On a side note, I wonder why I haven’t read anything about the Bond set being as “green” as the Incredible Hulk’s was:


  • Tony

    October 25, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Excellent post. It could also be headed when a brand sells out.

    James Bond is such a strong brand, it is disappointing that many of the product placements are too obvious and tarnish both their brand & the Bond brand.

    I didn’t realise that product placements in movies had been around for so long. Does this happen in books too? I’m now not sure whether Ian Fleming was paid for mentioning brands in his books – I assume not – but maybe Sunbeam Alpine sales were in a slump at the time!

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