September 29, 2023 — Article
Martin Hopkins unpacks how a 115-year-old Aussie fashion brand continues to look hip on our hips.
Here in Australia, being around for more than 100 years makes a brand old. It makes it a heritage brand.
It’s a tricky course being a heritage brand, especially a mass-market fashion one.
It’s not easy to stay relevant, on or ahead of trends. To reflect modern values and appeal to the next generation without losing current customers, all while maintaining clear sense of who you are.
It’s a lot to navigate.
Yet Bonds manages to make it look simple.
A big part of it boils down to putting diversity and inclusion at the centre of the brand.
The Bonds brand vision ‘we’re here to make life comfy’ and the overarching ‘Planet Comfy’ platform, is driving everything it does from design to product, people and community.
What the platform does well is connect product to purpose.
It’s not a box-ticking exercise.
Being comfortable in a Bonds world can be explained in many ways: everyone wants their underwear to be comfortable. Everyone wants to feel comfortable in their skin, with each other and comfortable that their purchases aren’t harming the environment.
Bonds isn’t trailblazing. Dove’s iconic Real Beauty campaign and brands like Boody have put body positivity on the agenda.
But Bonds is owning the space and pushing it out to mass market Australia. As only a heritage brand of its size can.
In execution, Bonds presents as a modern inclusive Australian brand.
Campaigns, comms and content feature talent that is diverse, better reflecting modern everyday Australians.
It feels authentic.
There are fewer six-packs and imperfections aren’t retouched.
By collaborating with artists such as LGBQTI advocate Kris Andrew Small, the brand’s graphics feel fresh and contemporary. The tone of voice has attitude.
Bonds is frank yet fun and doesn’t shy away from real-world issues like periods, incontinence or chafing.
It seems a far cry from the days when we only saw celebrities or supermodels wearing CK trunks or Wonderbras and bodily fluids weren’t mentioned.
Bonds somehow manages to do all of this without alienating any of its customers.
It’s a brand that can do edgy yet still sell good value undies and loungewear both in its own stores and site, in department stores or even at the supermarket.
So, when it comes to successfully communicating your diversity and inclusion (D&I) commitment, what can other brands learn from Bonds?
Firstly, brands should remember, D&I is for life, not just for Pride Month or International Women’s Day. Develop an approach that works across all 365 days of the year.
Make it ownable and ensure it connects to all parts of your organisation.
Connect D&I to your product. Like Bond’s Planet Comfy, develop a platform that’s a clear link to your brand’s purpose and the product or services you offer, not just a corporate compliance bolt-on.
Don’t be generic or you’ll appear tokenistic.
Back it up. Consumers and activist groups will quickly smell the BS if you’re claiming one thing but your business is doing something totally different. Who can forget the oft-cited Pepsi/Kendall Jenner faux pas that trivialised Black Lives Matter?
Embrace authenticity and imperfection, Gen Z thrive on it – just go on TikTok. You’ll see exactly what I mean. Airbrushing and filters are the antithesis of D&I for the next generation of consumers.
We should applaud Bonds for really pushing the agenda.
Let’s hope they keep progressing what it means for brands to be inclusive.
Bonds is the (almost) complete package.
Given one in five Australians live with some form of disability, if the brand was to embrace more talent that reflects this, they’d get a perfect score.
Martin Hopkins is a Creative Director at Principals.
This article first appeared in Inside Retail.
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