The name’s Bland, James Bland

James Bond fantasists alert

Yes, you too can spend an awful lot of money on a Bond weekend or week (up to £250,000 it seems). This involves you being flown around the world to meet ex-spies and special forces operatives who will ‘train’ you whilst laughing all the way to the bank. This example of indulging the fantasy self is a bit sad  and reminds me of the time I saw a guy pull-up at a local pub in a sports car with a private number plate something like 007 001. That plate would have cost him a portion of a million pounds. He got out of the car, and he was the antithesis of Bond; fat, bald, badly dressed, bespectacled and short. May be I miss judge him, perhaps he just had a stellar sense of humour.

James Bond endures as cultural cheerleader for men; he is a touchstone. He has nice clothes, is slim, has a lovely watch, drives great cars, drinks like a man and is great with guns (many men secretly want to be great with guns and good at fighting etc. – but that takes more effort and might come with social stigma – if you are urban middle class and live in the UK for example). Oddly enough, if a real Bond was known to us we would avoid him on the grounds that he was a psychopath who might try to steal our partner. But we don’t want him as a friend; we want to be him and various marketers and businesses know this only too well. (In fact, we don’t actually want to be him as such: his job is dangerous after all, and if we wanted to be him then why didn’t we try to get to Oxford, join the armed forces try to get into the SAS?) In actuality we only want to be him to an extent. The link above illustrates the power of fantasy in consumption and highlights a concept called the extended self and the ideal self. These are best understood in relation to other aspects of the self:

Actual self. This is your own honest perception about who you actually are. I can be negative overall or positive. Here is Seth’s. He’s a plumber who lives in Toronto: ‘I am a regular guy, slightly overweight, who likes a beer and a round of pool. I’m happily married, moderately happy overall but I’m ambitious. I’m going to start my own firm soon. I’m not sporty or an outdoor type. I’m a man’s man. I’m not that fashionable (I guess I could try harder). I’m not what you’d call an intellectual but I’m not stupid. I’m even-tempered, calm and a bit of a softy, especially with the kids.’ Thank you Seth, that was very helpful.

Ideal self. This is a view of who you would like to be, or what you aspire to be, and we can also extend this to the kind of lifestyle you consider ideal. Your ideal self might resemble someone famous or someone you admire. Perhaps it will mean transformations that are not possible (personality changes). Perhaps Seth’s ideal self resembles a young Bruce Willis. Perhaps this ideal of a rugged, successful, confident, desirable individual affects some of Seth’s purchase decisions, likely the more aspirational ones (maybe his watch or his best suit). Sorry Seth, you say your ideal self is Donald Trump? Boy, do you some have issues. You see, your actual self can be close or far away from your ideal.

Social self. This is how you think others see you (not how they actually do see you). This may or may not be consistent with your actual self. Perhaps you hide your actual self; perhaps you lead a double life; perhaps you are Count Dracula or Dr Jekyll! This too can influence your purchase in some categories and encourage you to buy things that you think fit with how people see you. You might buy something to challenge people’s perception of you. (‘Miriam, wow, I never thought you were into death metal. I had you down as an opera lover. Hop on the back of the bike and elope with me, you complicated vixen.’) Or you may buy things that conform to how you think you are perceived, in what Sartre called ‘bad faith’. (‘I have to dress crazy because everyone has me down as a zany guy, but deep inside I just want to be taken seriously.) You might like your social image or hate it and again it can be close to your actual self or far from it.

Extended self. This can be a sort of fantasy self or a weekend self – for example the dour librarian who is a biker at weekends, the accountant who’s a secret swinger on days off. You get it. Obviously this affects purchase (motorbike gear in the accountant’s case, perhaps underwear in the accountants case).

All of these can be manipulated by marketers, particularly when groups of people (customer segments) share common traits in their various selves. Many men have Bond fantasies and these can be used to sell us everything from watches to cars.

A note about copyright copyright

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