Two Blind Brothers Launch a Viral ‘Trust’ Campaign, Encouraging Visitors to ‘Shop Blind’

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Bradford and Bryan Manning
The holiday season tends to get tangled with sales and gift-giving rather than giving thanks for what we have that others may not—such as our sight. Two Blind Brothers, a non-profit clothing site, founded by Bradford and Bryan Manning, donates 100 percent of their profits toward research to cure eye disease. The two are generating sales and widening an awareness and fan base recognition this season with their unique and creative take on sharing messages that underscore the experience of visual impairment and blindness while raising money to help 11 million people with vision loss.

Both brothers were diagnosed at an early age with Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration which causes progressive vision loss over time. The disease’s main effect is to the macula which is responsible for our central vision. With the love and support from their family, they never let their vision loss deter them from succeeding. Both attended the University of Virginia—Bryan received his degree in Applied Sciences while Brad studied business and later pursued his masters in psychology at Columbia University. Shopping for clothing was always difficult for the two, relying and trusting in someone for help; yet both would always look for the same quality in the clothing they bought—how soft it was, the tactile feel of the fabric, which is how the idea of Two Blind Brothers apparel was born.

In business now for nearly three years, they launched their viral “Trust” campaign on Nov. 6, conceived to give shoppers the feeling of what it’s like to “shop blind” this holiday season by blacking out the images and descriptions of the clothing from their website and giving visitors a simple choice of three different price points to purchase—without seeing “what” they are buying. The Brothers’ clothing is made of a blend of primarily bamboo and cotton for ultimate softness, and all articles feature braille lettering to draw attention to vision impairment while paying tribute to the language of the blind community. Leaving it all up to trust, the online campaign will continue through the holiday season and be an annual tradition, according to the brothers.

In an exclusive interview with VMail Weekend, Bryan Manning doesn’t hold back from giving his older brother Brad credit when asked where the Trust campaign came from. “He took a small idea and made it bigger and better than we could have dreamed.” Bryan recalled his initial hesitation, wondering how they could convince people to not only buy something they couldn’t see but to trust them.

Brad said, “This is our brand, and our personal experience. It’s what we face all the time.” They admit they never expected so many people to be impacted by their story. The campaign has driven their sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday “through the roof” according to the brothers, with the campaign reaching over five million people as of Nov. 28. Their website gives price options from $32 to $89 with no product description. Bryan said it would “ruin the surprise” but they do promise that if buyers are not happy with the choice or size, they will refund those purchases. All profits from the Trust campaign, as well as their regular sales, go to Foundation Fighting Blindness, an organization established in 1971, dedicated to funding support of vision-related research to provide preventions, treatments and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases.

It is because of the Foundation’s 40-year track record that Brad and Bryan continually choose to work with them. Bryan explained the Foundation is constantly, “finding, promoting and propelling young research forward to commercialization. They had a big win earlier this year with Spark Therapeutics a company developing a drug called Luxturna. It cures people with a disease called laborious congenital amaurosis (LCA)—with one injection. “You go from blind and reading braille, to reading text,” Bryan explained the progression in the research and said that there are currently 40 clinical trials going on for retinal eye disease. “There’s a lot of hope these days,” he said.

Primarily utilizing the Two Blind Brothers Facebook page to share their content through organic posts shared by people in their community, Brad said, “Even though we’re trying to sell a shirt,—we’re trying to speak to the community, spread awareness, and help people who are in our shoes by sharing our story.”

The brothers shared an “amazing Facebook comment” from a customer who, “went to the website and looked at it saying, ‘I can’t pick my size, I can’t figure this out, I’m not gonna do it,’ and closed the tab but then realized, ‘Wait that’s what it’s all about,’ and she went back and immediately made a purchase.” With thousands of views and likes on promotional videos, the boldness of the Trust campaign brings more visibility and funding to help fight blindness.

The majority of Two Blind Brothers’ business is e-commerce based, but as a special treat for the holidays they are currently selling their apparel in a new pop-up at The Market @Macy’s flagship Herald Square location in New York City. Said Brad, “We’ll have the opportunity to showcase the brand in a physical location, allowing shoppers to feel the brand's clothing for themselves. Facebook has been a core partner in our growth. For Bryan and I, touch is such an important sense and why softness is a hallmark of our brand. For Two Blind Brothers and the majority of businesses participating, the experience will allow consumers to experience our brands and quality in a physical store for the first time ever."

The two brothers’ three major goals for 2019 include a focus on product development—rounding out the luxury basics part of their business, to expand the Two Blind Brothers wardrobe, an expanded focus on “community building,” through social media and the brothers’ YouTube channel. They also hope to continue to grow their business and sales channels and Brad told VMail Weekend he is hopeful they will be able to secure some corporate partnerships.