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Bonds Abandons The Muscly Blond Stereotype And Experts Say They’ll Reap The Rewards

At a time when big brands are shaking up their image, many fall victim to diversity oversteer or tokenism, but iconic Aussie brand Bonds seems to have struck the right chord.

Best mates who are drag queens. A traditionally tattooed Samoan-Kiwi mother with her newborn. IVF triplets born to three different mothers.

These are some of the diverse stories featured in Bonds' Christmas campaign, 'It's The Bonds That Make The Season'.

Then there's the young woman who defied medical experts to donate a life-saving kidney to her sister, a sight-impaired woman and her guide dog, plus a couple married for 70 years.

The campaign stars range in age from nine months to 91 years old, whose touching stories were "critical to creating this idea", according to Kedda Ghazarian, the brand's marketing manager.

"We discovered Shirley and Leigh, a local Bendigo couple married for 70 years, through a local newspaper article, and others through word of mouth," Ghazarian told 10 daily.

"It was important for us to choose stories that really represent the fabric of Australia and different stories that would strike a cord with different viewers."

The 'Bonded by 'Aiga' clip features mum Bailey Tuiomanufili and bub Lila ('aiga means "family" in Samoan).

When Tai Moors, a Cairns resident of Samoan heritage, came across the clip on Facebook, she cried.

"I always love seeing the bond between a mother and her baby, but it was different this time," Moors told 10 daily.

"When I saw her Malu (a Samoan traditional tattoo for women) I was moved to tears. I watched the clip over and over again, I just couldn’t wait to share it with everyone."

Ghazarian said the 'Bonded by Aiga' story has "really resonated" with "the local and international Samoan community".

"Drag queens Matt and Shahmen have also got people talking, and there have been a few tear emojis going around for the 70-year-strong Bendigo couple Shirley and Leigh," Ghazarian said.

Retail advertising expert Danny Lattouf told 10 daily these campaigns are familiar territory for Bonds.

"The brand has a progressive nature in their communications. The Christmas campaign pushes things a little further, but it isn't inconsistent," Lattouf said.

Brands like Bonds, Telstra and Woolworths are standouts in a space where many approach diversity as tokenism, said marketing expert Sheba Nandkeolyar.

"Where diversity can feel forced in numerous advertising campaigns, Bonds feels real. They also portray women's bodies without any sexual overtones, which is amazing," Nandkeolyar told 10 daily.

Many Australian brands were still hesitant to take risks when it came to showcasing diversity in their campaigns, Nandkeolyar added.

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"Most marketers don't want to upset the mass audience and actually try to stay away from diversity. I've heard, 'We'd rather do it well, or not at all' often.

"I sometimes feel like asking, 'Hang on, when is the time you want to do it?' Because the time is now."

In 1915, an American immigrant named George Bond founded Bonds in Sydney as a small manufacturer of women’s hosiery.

The brand's cartoon trademark, a blonde muscleman named Chesty Blond, was created in 1938 to sell men's underwear.

Throughout the years, prominent Australians signed on as ambassadors including Pat Rafter, Sarah Murdoch and Iggy Azalea.

Since Bonds became a wholly owned subsidiary of Hanesbrands in July 2016, there has been a noticeable shift in the brand's diversity and inclusion focus.

Bonds ambassadors like Pat Rafter, Sarah Murdoch and Iggy Azalea reflected the brands' 'traditional' Australian image for a majority of its existence. Images: Getty, Bonds

The 2016 Census found Australia today is more diverse than ever. Twenty-two percent of the population speak a language other than English at home, 11 percent identify as LGBTQI+ and a fifth of the country live with a disability.

According to Lattouf, the most successful Australian brands today are the most connected brands.

Melbourne couple Steve and Nick, who were 'Bonded by chance', star in the brand's Christmas campaign. Image: Bonds

"If more diverse advertising helps that brand connect in a stronger, deeper way with their audience, then that will, without question, result in commercial success.

"It might not be instant, because you grow brand connection and strength over time, and it doesn't necessarily correlate immediately with retail performance," Lattouf said.

Moors said campaigns like Bonds' Christmas ad create dialogue among people "to be curious and embrace others with various backgrounds".

"(This) has the power to make real positive change and eliminate bias," Moors said.

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au