Back in 1873, when Levi Strauss started selling overalls to prospectors in the California Gold Rush, he probably didn’t dream that Levi’s would still be around 138 years later. Nor would he have imagined that his jeans would be competing with 178 other denim brands. Luckily, while the company no longer has Mr. Strauss, it does have CMO Rebecca Van Dyck.
Faced with the task of making her brand relevant to a new generation of young, fickle consumers, Van Dyck and her able marketing team dug up some golden ideas. One was re-emphasizing Levi’s as a brand for young women. To promote Levi’s Curve ID line—which offers different “curves” in addition to standard women’s jeans sizes—Van Dyck launched a campaign with taglines like “All asses are not created equal” and featured a makeover tent that went on a tour of college campuses, giving women a chance to “catwalk” their custom-fitted jeans while a fashion photographer snapped glossies. As a result, Van Dyck says, “we’ve been bringing in more women who are new to Levi’s than ever before.”
Van Dyck also took hold of Levi’s already successful “Go Forth” initiative (launched in 2009 with a creative lift from Wieden + Kennedy) and grew it to 24 countries. “Go Forth” had already won Levi’s plenty of American fans with stirring spots shot in places like post-Katrina New Orleans as well as the underwriting of community-building movements. (That effort continues with events like this month’s “Benefit Braddock” concert held in the struggling rust-belt Pennsylvania town.)
Equipped with the added tag of “Now Is Our Time,” the expanded campaign—which debuted to an audience of 325 million people on Facebook—speaks to the young and socially conscious, telling them they have the power to change things—and that Levi’s is their brand. “Our values are about a pioneering spirit and creating positive change,” Van Dyck says. “Initially, America was our canvas. Now, our canvas is the world.”
The world is paying attention. Levi’s Q3 net revenues jumped 9 percent to $1.2 billion, while net income rose to $32 million, up from $28 million for the same period last year.
Editor's Note: This is just one of ten Brand Genius winners being introduced by Adweek this week. Check back Tuesday through Thursday of this week for more!