Bench Bags International Honors — Again

When you think of a local retailer that has successfully gone global, top of mind would be Bench. Now with stores in Riyadh, Kuwait, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and different cities in China (more than 27 company-owned stores and 19 franchises in this emerging superpower alone), Bench is now providing affordable and quality products to not just Filipinos based abroad, but also to fashion lovers who can’t resist the brand’s youthful, practical and trend-purveying products.

Bench’s international appeal, however, is not only consumer-reliant. Just recently the clothing and lifestyle brand proved that global success is not just based on sales or a particular number of stores. Recently winning the Best Marketing Campaign Award at the 2011 FAPRA (Federation of Asia-Pacific Retailers Association) Awards, Bench shines the spotlight on Philippines ingenuity and creativity in an entirely new way.

Once just a small booth at SM Department Store, Bench, founded by Ben Chan (a dreamer with an interior design education), first entered the retail scene by peddling T-shirts. A year later, Ben Chan opened up his first boutique and expanded the Filipino wardrobe by offering bottoms and more clothing options. In 1991, Bench pursued the possibilities of advertising and released a TV commercial featuring then local heartthrob Richard Gomez. Devoid of copy or voiceover, the black-and-white TVC showed Gomez rowing a banca to the soundtrack of Chopin’s Claire de Lune.

The audacious simplicity of this ad won the Best Cinematography Award in that year’s Philippine Advertising Congress and set an internal standard for succeeding Bench advertising and marketing campaigns. The success of this TVC also became a portent to other forms of marketing cognition, a fitting precedent to the FAPRA award it recently received. 

Held annually during the Asia-Pacific Retailers Convention and Exhibition, the largest gathering of all retailers in the region, the FAPRA Awards honors Asian merchants’ most innovative and creative efforts in the selling, marketing, customer service and even training categories.

This year, the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) nominated Bench and its series of underwear shows as a contender for the Best Marketing Campaign Award. The much-awaited event, which had its debut showing in 1997, is mounted every two years and attracts hordes of attendees, most of whom would probably give up arm, leg and any other available limb just for a ticket.  Over the years, the Bench underwear event has grown from just being a show of skin or a celebrity stage gathering to a spectacle that incorporates international acts and globally-based Filipino designers — in 2008, Bench introduced their Mobo underwear line by London-based designer Lesley Mobo, and also wowed audiences with French acrobats hanging from the ceiling, tethered just by aerial silk; in 2010, the Bench Uncut show maximized on Bench’s global undertakings and featured designs of Dubai-based designers Michael Cinco and Furne One, both now talked-about names in Hollywood.

This is not actually the first time Bench has bagged an international award for its marketing output. In 1994, barely six years into operation, the brand’s "Air/Water/Fire" campaign received honors at the New York Festival for International Advertising. The same accolades were awarded to Bench’s “Beauty Pageant” campaign 15 years later in 2004. In 2001, a big year for Bench advertising, their “Breathable” campaign, another underwear endeavor were finalists at the 2001 London International Advertising Awards and at the 51st International Advertising Festival in Cannes France. 

Bench is the only Filipino winner at this year’s FAPRA Awards.





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