Bonobos Project172

For some time, the story around Bonobos has been its fits, diversity of styling and the $310 million deal to Walmart. 

But how to build a brand that lasts? The message might need to be more than product and the company’s doubling down on its marketing with a new campaign called Project172, which kicked off Monday with the launch of two TV spots. 

The campaign — with the TV commercials paired with a national e-mail, social media and radio campaign — enlisted 172 men (the total number of sizes and fit combinations in Bonobos pants), all wearing the same pair of stretch washed chinos in the same color, to share their thoughts on gender stereotypes and the changing definition of masculinity. The company is set to release on May 21 a mini-documentary with footage from conversations with those 172 individuals talking about their definition of masculinity. 

“We have been working in the last couple of years in terms of trying to position Bonobos from a brand perspective as a brand that stands for not just great fitting clothing but really helping men find their fit in the world, recognizing that the world is changing dramatically and particularly for men changing,” said Bonobos copresident and chief marketing officer Micky Onvural. “It’s become even more topical with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement the way that men should look at themselves and behave it’s changing really fast.” 

That’s a conversation, Onvural said, Bonobos wants in on. Initial messaging around that began in October with this month’s launch representing the next iteration of that conversation. 

“This is one manifestation of a brand story and it’s a story we’re really excited to build around — this idea of a world that is, in general, more inclusive and recognizes the power of diversity in terms of the way people live and perspectives and points of view,” she said. “So we’re just really excited to continue that journey of pushing that story.”

The TV spot, which was shot in Los Angeles, is aimed specifically at Austin and Chicago because those are top markets for the company with a few local influencers from those cities participating in Project172, in addition to some Bonobos employees.

The company could expand out distribution of the spot to more markets in the second half of the year, Onvural said. 

It’s an important step for the business as it scales and matures now with more muscle behind it’s marketing. 

“Bonobos has taken a pretty traditional start-up route from a marketing perspective,” Onvural said when asked how spend on this campaign compares with what the company has done historically. “What I mean by that is we started out building our owned channels, whether that’s our web site presence and building SEO and those e-mail channels, and in the last few years augmented that with digital channels.…We obviously have our Guide Shops, too, which act like a billboard and this [campaign] is the next wave of investment in the brand and the business.” 

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