Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.
What’s the elevator pitch for your project?
Google the term “masculine.” The definition you’ll see is outdated and toxic. #EvolveTheDefinition interviews 172 real people (representing the 172 size and fit combinations that Bonobos offers) to spark a conversation around that narrow definition. The authentic and enlightening reactions were captured in a short documentary that aired on national TV and took over YouTube, becoming a lightning rod for the discussion. Our microsite allowed people to watch all 172 interviews and help #EvolveTheDefinition by sharing their own synonyms for “masculine,” inspiring people to think outside the box and create a more inclusive future that isn’t limited by gender stereotypes.
What was the impetus for this project? What real-world challenge were you trying to solve?
Toxic masculinity is an increasingly important topic in the United States. Experts point out that celebrating only one kind of masculinity (big and strong, aggressive and powerful), puts men in a box, leading to self-destructive and sometimes violent results. The fact that boys are growing up with the uncompromising advice, to “man up” or “be a man,” causes them to bottle up feelings, not show vulnerability, and feel like they don’t fit. This classic idea of masculinity is negatively affecting generations to come. As a brand dedicated to creating an inclusive world where every man fits, we couldn’t be silent while the very definition of “masculine” was exclusive and potentially damaging.
The “a-ha” moment happened during the research and brainstorming phase when we bumped into the Google definition of “masculine” and its synonyms. That’s when we realized how outdated and limited the current dictionary definition was and that it needed to be evolved to reflect today’s society authentically.
Once you settled on your idea, what was your first step in moving it forward?
Our first step was casting 172 real people, one to represent each of the 172 fit combinations that Bonobos offers. Together, these individuals represented a diverse range of body shape, age, race, and gender and sexual identities. During the first casting call, everyone was asked to show up wearing something that honestly expressed their style or beliefs. We ensured we were representing an accurate range of people that identified with being masculine, fitted them with a Bonobos outfit based on their unique style, then dove into our interviews about the definition of “masculine.”
Was there a moment during the project where you ran into a hurdle; or faced a problem you didn’t know how to solve? Take us to this moment, what happened and what did you do next?
After interviewing all 172 individuals, we ended up having over 30 hours of footage, a staggering amount to cut down to 90 seconds (and on a tight turnaround). Drowning in content, we were overwhelmed, but each story was so uniquely compelling. How could we tell these deeper stories? It was this moment that pushed us to create a microsite where you could hear from every single one of the 172 individuals. It wasn’t the easy way out, but creating this platform ensured that every person had a say in what it means to be masculine.
Did the real-world impact meet your expectations? Can you share an example?
When we launched during the ESPYs and took over YouTube, we expected our film to have a divisive response. Indeed it did. Despite our inclusive message, trolls who identified as “real men” felt the campaign was an “attack against men.” One wrote, “Making pussy soy boys feel more masculine is a sad joke. Modern women have more balls than these femboys.” Comments like that illustrate why a conversation about masculinity needs to be had. On the flip side, we connected deeply with those who were waiting to hear this type of message. Actress Reese Witherspoon wrote, “I love this commercial. We all need to start talking to our sons about what it means to be a man."
What technologies/media did you use to develop this project (AI, Social Media, WordPress, etc.)?
• An interactive microsite allowed people to explore all 172 candid stories. People could also share their own synonyms for “masculine” directly to their social feeds.
• Every interviewed influencer was given a cut-down of their interview to post on social.
• Engaged 2 NBA Athlete-Influencers (Chris Bosh and DeAndre Jordan) to post video viewpoints on #EvolveTheDefinition to their social.
• Amplified with YouTube TrueView ads, plus Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
• YouTube and Twitter homepage takeovers across mobile, tablet and desktop, driving significant reach.
• Traditional media amplified the content, premiering during the ESPY Awards, followed by subsequent airings.
Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?
Where we shared our message was crucial because we wanted to create a disruptive moment to challenge the status quo. That’s why we aired a film that questions our definition of "masculine" during a traditionally masculine sports event like the ESPYs. We also chose to take over YouTube and enable comments because this is where so many trolls clinging to their antiquated definition of masculine demonize people that don’t fit the mold, hiding behind their anonymous usernames. If we only chose like-minded media to share our message, it may have been more widely embraced, but the conversation would have been less impactful.
How did this project defy your expectations?
• Over 10MM views on YouTube in the first 24 hours.
• Surpassed KPIs and drove 31% relative lift in brand awareness. Of those who saw #EvolveTheDefinition, 83% feel more favorable of Bonobos.
• 3.61% lift in purchase consideration.
• Over 400,000 site visits.
• Winner of the #TheYouTubeAd of The Year (That Rewrites the Rules).
• Google searches for “Bonobos” reached the highest peak during the ESPYs VS the previous 12 months.
• Website sessions beat the daily average by more than 50%.
• 17.4% total lift in sales.
• 7.5% lift in retail location foot traffic. $1.3MM in sales during the week of the ESPYs and $2.3MM in sales 3 weeks following the premiere.