Underwear brand Bonds introduced The Boys – a pair of talking testicles – to Australia in December 2015. Rob and Dennis, as the testicles are known, starred in series of online videos that showed the everyday hardships that men’s nether regions have to experience, including cycling or manscaping.
The Boys returned in April 2016 as the stars of an interactive billboard by Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall. The billboard measured the weather in real time and showed Rob and Dennis reacting to the changing conditions. For example, when it was cold, they shrank towards the top of the billboard and when it got warmer they hung lower.
We interviewed Michael Derepas, planning director at Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne, to find out how an online-only activity turned into full above-the-line campaign and got guys talking about their underpants at the pub.
What is Bond’s position in the market place?
It’s ubiquitous. Everyone knows Bonds and has grown up with the brand. It’s kind of like an Australian version of Gap. Bonds is usually the default choice for people but recently we’ve had increasing competition from similarly-priced brands that are aggressively competing for a share of the market.
What are the brand’s main challenges?
For men underwear is a low-interest category. They just don’t care about their undies. They’ll happily wear them for ages, with holes, and think this is okay. They won’t buy a new pair until they absolutely have to or their girlfriend, wife or mother forces them to. It’s not something men want to deal with, so trying to sell them new styles or shapes of underwear is almost an impossible job.
We knew we were never going to get men to care about their undies but they care about their balls. And they might think about getting new briefs in order to look after their balls.
– Michael Derepas, Clemenger BBDO
What were the business objectives?
The client wanted to start a conversation with men about their underwear and so this started off like a small test. They asked what we would do if they took out all restrictions and we came up with the idea but a lot of the credit goes to the client because they knew they had to be brave. At the start it was small budget, online-only campaign but it has grown a lot since then. It sparked a lot of discussions and people are finding it liberating. So, as a result, we have expanded it to outdoor and social too. The latest version of the campaign is more above the line and encompassing ecommerce offers.
What was the brief?
Look after your boys, it was as simple as that. Traditionally, it would have been a brief about Bonds being more comfy or having certain features, but no one really cares about that. We knew we were never going to get men to care about their undies but they care about their balls. And they might think about getting new briefs in order to look after their balls.
Did you focus on a specific type of client?
The target audience was guys, young and old. And, surprisingly, women loved it too. In Australia people think they’re not allowed to say or do anything like this anymore, so it felt very liberating for people to talk about slightly taboo subjects. You know, this is not something that’s publicly brought up.
Did you do any research into your target audience?
There was plenty of traditional qualitative and quantitative research but I think the insight out of that was really that men aren’t interested in the topic. From there, the challenge for us was to make them care. And so we had to find something else that they cared about that made them think about underwear.
How does the consumer journey look like for them?
Men usually buy underwear only once or twice a year. When they do, they tend to just go and buy in bulk, like a pack of six or ten and then they’re done. They forget about that until it’s absolutely necessary to get another pair, or sometimes, until their partners or mothers don’t buy these for them.
What made you believe this was the right approach?
To be honest, we didn’t know if that was the right approach but we knew that no one cared about the features of the product. We knew that men would notice something only if it’s not good or doesn’t feel right. They might not care about the comfort of the trunks but they will notice if they’re uncomfortable. We just had to find a fun way to get guys thinking and talking about that.
It started as a small online experiment to see if we can get men thinking about their underwear and maybe even start talking about it with their mates in the pub. No one would usually do that because it’s kind of awkward or embarrassing. So we developed fun content for the brief to start that social conversation. When the client saw everything was going in the right direction they embraced it and amplified it to TV, outdoor and ecommerce. Because of men’s indifference to underwear the link to ecommerce has worked phenomenally well. We just made the purchase journey easier and that is paying off.
Why was it important to get men talking about their trunks in the pub or with their mates?
We wanted to put undies back on the agenda. Men would usually just go and buy Bonds because they’re safe and no one would judge them for it. But more than just making Bonds top of mind, we wanted to own the conversation around the topic.
What results do you have so far?
The feedback has been great. I think it’s proven that if you’re emotional in your creative you can make people feel a positive connection and emotion to something not necessarily that exciting, like underwear. I’m glad it has become a mainstream thing and driving sales but also starting conversations. I also think it’s great that women are having as much fun with this as men.
Do you plan to build on this in the future?
Absolutely, this is only the start. We have another thing for Father’s Day coming soon. It’s great to see the impact and the results coming from true and brave work.
What are your key learnings from this campaign?
I think it was great that we had Bonds being fearless and willing to test and learn because you can have an idea of what the reaction is going to be but you can never be certain until you release these things and see how the public will pick them up. Sometimes you need to fail or start small. Smaller things also give you the opportunity to be more experiential and test more. And that risk can become a bigger concept and a revenue generator for the client, which is a win for everyone involved. We’re after ideas that resonate in culture and it’s lovely when they get their own momentum.