Looking to capitalize on the current push for diversity and dismantling gender norms in fashion, Bonobos is launching a new campaign to position itself as a proponent of inclusivity in menswear.
On Monday, the menswear e-commerce company launched Project 172, a marketing campaign featuring 170 men and two women across race, size and age that each represent every possible fit available at Bonobos. Though the ads appear to be a response to the rise in national chatter around masculinity — particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement and mass shootings committed largely by men — Bonobos co-president Micky Onvural said Project 172 is an extension of CEO Andy Dunn’s founding principle of using clothing that fits well to drive confidence.
“There has been an increase in conversation around the changing definition of masculinity and gender equality, as well as the pursuit of equality for women with Time’s Up,” she said. “But the inspiration for [Project 172] is longstanding. The execution has found its voice in an incredibly meaningful time, from a cultural zeitgeist perspective.”
Project 172 is the largest-scale campaign launched by Bonobos since it was acquired by Walmart in June 2017, a move that also gave Dunn the joint title of svp of digital consumer brands at Walmart. The acquisition was a strategic play for Walmart to grow its expanding e-commerce business, while at the same time allowing Bonobos to bypass the often tumultuous process of issuing an initial public offering.
Despite Walmart’s supervision, Onvural said Bonobos operates more or less autonomously and has not received outside investments or help from Walmart. The only tangible changes the company has experienced so far, she said, pertain to infrastructure shifts that help with ease of shipping and financial point of sales.
As Bonobos is in the process of finding an official chief marketing officer, Onvural will continue to oversee campaigns and creative development. She said that among the 172 individuals featured in the campaign, 20 were already influencer partners, while the rest were identified through open casting calls that required applicants to share personal stories about what manhood means to them. The selected stories are currently being compiled into short documentaries designed for social media sharing that will air later this month.
However, though Bonobos is celebrating its 172 fit combinations with a campaign centered on inclusivity, it’s worth noting that it does not currently offer plus-size apparel or traditional “big and tall” sizing. While the oversight points to the persistent neglect of the plus-size men’s market among retailers, Onvural said plus-size apparel is an area Bonobos is working toward.
“We don’t have what would traditionally be ‘big and tall’ in our collection right now. We’re working on a customer-centric approach to that segment of our audience, but we don’t have a strong showing currently,” she said.
Ultimately, Onvural said Project 172 reflects a solid foundation of improving confidence among men with the help of clothing that fits well. In addition to the campaign, Bonobos has also long featured an editorial component of its site called Guidebook that shares features on inspirational men, including most recently the co-producer of the television show “Black-ish.”
“[Guidebook] speaks to the broader brand and marketing strategy, which is this idea of how we give men the confidence to be who they truly have the potential to be,” she said. “Operating from a clothing perspective, we show role models and content that showcases some of the most interesting men in the world. Our editorial and marketing strategy all layers up to the diversity of men.”
Get more news, analysis and insight around the modernization of retail and e-commerce by subscribing to our weekly Amazon Briefing email.