Brotailing 101

Ray Hartjen
Ray Hartjen
Guest Contributor

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, bros are carving out a niche in the American pop culture scene, and savvy retailers – brotailers, if you will – are taking notice.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1975, the average man got married at the age of 24. Today, that average man is getting married at age 29. While you might look at that difference as just five years, retail entrepreneurs look at it differently, as they see a market segment made of men earning discretionary income, but without spouses to spend it for them.

They see an unmet market for a niche segment with growing wealth.

They see “Brotailing.”

You know bros, and if you don’t, watch out, ‘cause the brovolution is well underway. Bros are generally males in their 20’s and young 30’s, flush with cash from well paying jobs, and often found plotting their next adventures in hip, urban environments. The epicenter of Brodom might just be San Francisco, where Brogrammers at uber-cool companies like, well, Uber, have already taken over the Marina District – check out Christopher Muther’s pre-Super Bowl write up for the Boston Globe.

Of course, you likely also know bros from one of Geico’s current commercials, featuring two brohemians lifting weights.

Brotailing is relatively new, but growing quickly, as new brotailers are being attracted into the market by the success of brotailing pioneers like Chubbies, a San Francisco-based brotailer who has raised more than $13 million in venture capital from firms like IDG Ventures, Burch Creative Capital and Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and seen revenues grow upwards of 50 percent annually.

However, while brotailing is a conceptual upstart, retailing is not, and best practices prove to be best practices for a reason. As your business enters the brovironment, keep the following in mind:

Celebrate your inner (and outer) bro

Embrace your inner bro and don’t let the inevitable parodies get in your way. Sure, bros have to fight through the stereotype of the knuckleheaded frat boy with a six pack – both beverages and abdominals – hanging out in a small pack of other similar knuckleheaded frat boys. But working through that can bring big rewards. Remember when “all” Millennials were slackers living with their parents once they finally – after six years – graduated from college? Now, they’re the lone demographic group in the United States with growing disposable income and will account for 30% of all retail – $1.4 trillion – in 2020. While bros won’t get that big, ignore the niche at your own risk, but, …

Be authentic

Authenticity is absolutely critical in any and all attempts at community building in retail. For those with short memories, let me refer you to November 3, 1992, when, during New York Fashion Week, Perry Ellis’ Marc Jacobs – who couldn’t tell Chris Cornell from Chris O’Donnell – was declared by our friends at Women’s Wear Daily as “the guru of Grunge,” and thus killed off a movement by creating a national joke out of the burgeoning flannel fashion scene sprouting from the Seattle-driven music of the era.


November 2, 1992, the grunge died at the hands of Perry Ellis' Marc Jacobs at New York Fashion Week.

November 2, 1992 – the day grunge fashion died at the hands of Perry Ellis’ Marc Jacobs at New York Fashion Week.

There’s only one opportunity to make a good first impression, and today, with social media networks allowing everybody, including every bro, to become a de facto media outlet, bro backlash can be swift and crippling. Build your community around sincere connections to the market and its interests, much like Nike has done with recreational athletes around the globe.

Tell stories (and help bros share their own)

Successful brotailers tell origin stories and share lifestyle adventures and misadventures. Like other retailers, they also provide platforms for customers to share their own experiences and memories.

Invite bros into the brand and encourage them to help further develop the brand through the brand’s own Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as the brand’s website. Support the bros online and they will support you back.

Also, create brocentric experiences to gain engagement, both in and out of the store. Music, sports and artisan products are good places to start, and if you want to be adventurous, consider partnering with craft breweries, cigar sellers, tattoo artists, barbers, etc.

Test, Measure and Improve

Hitting a home run in your first at bat is possible, but not probable, so don’t go counting on it. Be prepared to experiment and test new concepts, measure against performance criteria, and continually improve. Most of all, listen to your bros. Customer feedback goes a long way, and responding to customer needs and desires is the key to long-term success.

Brotailing might not be for everyone. Or, it might just be. Believe it or not, there’s a growing movement of women bros (think of the TV show, How I Met Your Mother). What’s important is to connect with and engage with your market, nurture and foster relationships, and grow alongside them as their tastes and desires evolve over time, all the while not losing site of the core values of your business.

Most of all, relax and have fun. Bros aren’t in it for a long time, they’re in it for a good time. It’s something Cyndi Lauper and the girls discovered long ago.

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