Over the past five decades, James Bond has been thrilling audiences across the globe. The last 23 films feature stirring soundtracks with accompanying hit songs, that either subtly, or obviously reference 007’s famous theme; and the 24th film, Spectre, won’t be shaking things up.
The films have a deeply ingrained sonic identity; the instantly recognisable music is intrinsically linked to the James Bond character - when you see Bond, you hear his theme. When you hear his theme, you think of Bond, and it’s more than likely he’s about to stealthily waltz into a room. Your parents and your children can all probably sing the ‘dum-dum-di-di-dum-dum’ theme (originally penned by Monty Norman) - now that’s a powerful piece of sonic branding.
I use the term sonic branding because, these days, James Bond doesn’t only sell cinema tickets, he also sells watches, phones, fragrances, vodka... the list goes on.
James Bond himself is a franchise, a brand; and where you see a James Bond endorsed product, you’ll hear the characteristic ‘jazzy’ chords, surfer guitar and brassy stabs of the James Bond Theme. The music alone can create tension and excitement, and instant brand recognition, without seeing Bond on screen.
This sonic identity is featured on the adverts, websites and apps, of the brands that have paid to utilise James Bond’s global brand power. A great example of this is Coke Zero, whose ‘Unlock the 007 in you’ campaign had hopefuls singing the theme at a vending machine, to win free tickets to Skyfall. Three years on, and that video has over 11 million views on YouTube.
The ‘James Bond sound’ is perpetuated further, by way of the ‘Bond song’ that accompanies every film. By collaborating with the the most popular artists of the time, the James Bond brand makes itself relevant in the current cultural climate, again and again.
The theme is referenced in nearly every Bond song; Shirley Bassey smuggles it into the horn section at the end of ‘Goldfinger’, Adele goes all out and uses it as the melody in her song ‘Skyfall’. Every song has something in the melody, harmony or instrumentation that is typically ‘Bond’. This year fans eagerly anticipate the offering of British crooner Sam Smith.
The cross-marketing pairing of the film and the artist, creates a sort of PR powerhouse; the fans of the artist are introduced to the James Bond brand, and vice versa. The snake eats its tail, and another generation will be singing the James Bond theme in the playground.
There are other examples of global reaching music marketing (let’s all whistle ‘I’m loving it’ together and see who fancies a burger), but none that compare with the James Bond behemoth of the last 50 years. Cue awful pun - ‘Nobody does it better’.
However, in the digital age, there’s an amazing opportunity for brands to create, define and distribute their own sonic identity to a global audience.
Helen Bellringer is a producer for Massive Music