Over 150 years ago, Levi Strauss & Co. was founded in San Francisco. Historic and time-tested, anyone who appreciates a good piece of denim likely owns at least a pair of Levi’s jeans (or corduroys, or jackets, or shirts, etc.). Millions of people across the globe are quite literally living their lives, at least in part, while wearing something made by the legendary brand.
It is in this spirit that Levi’s Global CMO Jennifer Sey (promoted to her current position after being with the company for 15 years) immediately embarked on upgrading the brand’s approach to storytelling and marketing for the 21st Century. Recruiting creative agency AKQA to help build an all-inclusive media campaign that is platform-agnostic, forward-thinking, and most importantly, listening to its fans while reacting to their feedback, the Live in Levi’s campaign has been an enviable success since its launch in August 2014.
The campaign first caught the attention of ZEFR this past summer and we’ve been following its development ever since. ZEFR recently spoke with Jennifer Sey to learn more about how the campaign was developed, where it is headed, and how to best utilize user-generated content.
ZEFR Insights: You’ve spoken often about the brand’s “passionate fanbase” and the “personal stories” the company gets from the actual people who wear and love the clothing. How important are “fans” of Levi’s in terms of creating content for the Live in Levi’s Project?
Jennifer Sey: Our fans and their stories are central to the Live In Levi’s Project. Their stories are in part what led to our platform and we wanted to celebrate them by creating the Live In Levi’s Project. We have highlighted their user-generated content (UGC) on the website and on our social channels around the world, so that their unique stories can be seen, heard and celebrated.
ZEFR: In what ways has social media “opened the boardroom doors,” so to speak, forcing creatives to listen to their brand’s fans when developing an advertising strategy?
JS: User generated content (UGC) has become an integral part of our digital marketing strategy. The same way we gain insights from research to guide our strategies, we’re now using content from our fans. Live in Levi’s is all about authentic storytelling, so we definitely plan to continue highlighting our fans’ photo submissions on both our website and social channels and also continue to engage with our fans on a daily basis. For the “Live In Levi’s” campaign, we also made sure to feature real people in our advertising as fan engagement is very important to us.
“User generated content has become an integral part of our digital marketing strategy. The same way we gain insights from research to guide our strategies, we’re now using content from our fans.”
ZEFR: How much time does Levi’s devote to “listening” to their consumers? Where do you look for the conversations that are happening about Levi’s on social media? JS: Levi’s has an always-on approach when it comes to listening and responding to our consumers on social media platforms. Our social media team is monitoring and responding to conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube – in addition to channels like Weibo and WeChat in China. Even if every single message isn’t responded to personally, we are listening to what our customers are saying online and passing that feedback along to appropriate teams within the organization to constantly keep our finger on our consumer pulse.
ZEFR: In what other ways has the Live in Levi’s campaign utilized the YouTube platform for disseminating its message?
JS: We leveraged the Levi’s YouTube channel as the social video hub for our Live In Levi’s Project film and influencer story videos, and use paid media to garner additional reach.
“This campaign has definitely highlighted our belief that we cannot simply advertise on social, we need to create engaging content that spotlights our loyal fans and encourages fans to share their photos and stories.”
ZEFR: You recruited a unique group of creative individuals for some of the early Live In Levi’s campaign spots. (From Alexis Krauss of the band Sleigh Bells, Alexandra Spencer of 4thAndBleeker, Himm Wonn of Urban Magazine, to the artist Masahiro Akutagawa.) What was the selection process for the people featured in these films; “who” exactly were you looking for and how much did they have to love their jeans?
JS: We wanted to showcase that people all around the world, from all walks of life, live in Levi’s so that we could engage our global audience. As the original jeans brand, we sought to align with Original voices – truly authentic people, who express themselves through music and other creative outlets. We mainly worked with influencers around the world where we had existing relationships – people that were already living in their Levi’s – as it was important to tell authentic stories from our existing fans that truly wear and love Levi’s.
ZEFR: How has YouTube helped in terms of widening the global presence of the current campaign? You have been using the tag line “This is how the world lives in Levi’s.” So, for example, how does YouTube help you reach that global audience, by showing someone in Brooklyn how people are wearing Levi’s in Hong Kong, or vice versa?
JS: Since YouTube is a global platform, and our campaign is global, it was really a win for us to showcase our Live In Levi’s videos on this channel, as we were able to engage such a wide audience of Levi’s fans across the globe.
ZEFR: Not a lot of brands understand how social the YouTube platform has become, with conversations that develop around the videos in the comments. Does Levi’s consider YouTube a vital part of its social strategy and how might you be using the platform in the future, either directly for the Live in Levi’s Project, or to introduce new ideas, products?
JS: We envision that any video content that we create for the Live In Levi’s Project or other Levi’s campaigns will always live on our global YouTube channel. It is a critical component of our social as well as content messaging strategy.
ZEFR: What has surprised you most since the launch of the Live In Levi’s Project? In what ways has it lived up to, exceeded, or transformed your expectations of future projects? Have you learned anything about how best to utilize and design social media campaigns, not just for YouTube, but across all available platforms?
JS: We are very excited that we have seen so many amazing #LiveInLevis stories from our fans, and the Live In Levi’s campaign has confirmed that our communities love seeing photos of each other living in Levi’s. What’s been most surprising is the tangible impact on sales. For those that visit levi.com, we see markedly higher conversion if they’ve visited the Live in Levi’s project prior. This campaign has definitely highlighted our belief that we cannot simply advertise on social, we need to create engaging content that spotlights our loyal fans and encourages fans to share their photos and stories.
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