Micky Onvural

TOKYOBonobos is the American men’s wear retailer known best for it ultra customized fit and digitally savvy approach to retailing. But that’s not all that it stands for, said its chief executive officer Micky Onvural.

In fact, she pointed out that there are thousands of companies in the market with great product. The companies that succeed and become leaders often do so by pairing a smart business model and product with a social mission, she said.

Onvural shared an anecdote to illustrate of how powerful unconventional thinking and gestures can work in this regard.

A customer once came to Bonobos because his house had burned down in a fire, she said, which resulted in a loss of all his clothes. The man needed to replace his wardrobe.

In the course of conversing with Bonobos, the company found out he had also lost his dog in the fire, so they decided to do something unorthodox.

“They searched across social media,” said Onvural, “and found pictures of his dog and they commissioned a portrait of his dog. They sent it to him alongside the clothes that they replaced for him.”

It resulted in the company receiving a heartfelt reply from the man, which read:

“I thought I had shed the last of my tears from this whole event but I guess I had a few more left after opening your packaging. I will be forever grateful for all you have done throughout this tragedy and I cannot thank the Bonobos team enough.

“As I mentioned earlier, you have gained a customer for life, and I cannot thank you enough. You are all extraordinary people who work for an extraordinary organization. Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s apparent that Bonobos is much more than a clothing company.”

That case wasn’t an outlier. Onvural cited a 2017 Edelman study which showed that 65 percent of consumers choose a brand because of the stance they take on a social issue, and further, that 57 percent will boycott a brand if it is not aligned with their belief system around a social or political issue.

Steps like this have helped Bonobos grow at what is 10 times the rate for the wider American men’s wear market, Onvural shared.

Sometimes, instead of reaching people on an individual basis, the brand operates in a more public way. Last summer, Bonobos waded into the national conversation about the #MeToo movement with a video that prompted people to think about what masculinity is and how it should be defined

The video underscored that the current definition of masculinity is limiting and outdated, a message that reinforced the company mission statement to “create a world where we all fit.”

“We saw incredible results after running this,” Onvural shared. “We did see twice as many dislikes as likes on YouTube, which was a little bit of a scary moment…but we have seen long-term impact on the business. We’ve seen real engagement from the community.”

Onvural continued: “We won YouTube ad of the year, which was particularly nice as we beat Nike, but the most important thing was making a stance, seeing engagement from the community and seeing the continued business growth since we aired it last July.”

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