Levi's: The Levi’s Campaign that Levi’s Didn’t Create

Campaign Summary

Levi’s wanted to connect with Chinese millennials to increase sales, particularly in lower-tier cities, and to enable them to feel empowered by their own originality. Instead of telling them what it meant to be original, it leveraged their social media power and handed complete control of ad creation over to them.


Objective and Context:

The brand’s image had always been about being “original” and “cool.” However, it had lost relevance among Chinese millennials. Levi’s no longer excited or inspired them. In China’s lower-tier cities, it had lost market share to its competitor, Lee Jeans, so it wanted to connect and engage with Chinese youths to increase sales.

Target Audience:

The target audience was what the brand called “Style Seekers.” They were millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 who were highly involved in fashion and were considered a fashion authority. In addition, the brand wanted to appeal to “Broad Fashion Aspirers,” who were between the ages of 15 and 24 and kept up to date on fashion from key opinion leaders on social channels.

Creative Strategy:

When Levi’s launched its global campaign “We Are Original” in China, it wanted to enable Chinese millennials to feel empowered by their own originality. Instead of telling them what it meant to be original, it leveraged their social media power and handed complete control of ad creation over to them. This inspired them to create their own versions of the Levi’s “We Are Original” campaign.

Levi’s took a close look at the social posts of Chinese teens and young adults. It found that the posts weren’t made solely for the purposes of vanity or fun. This led to the key campaign insight: Chinese youths grew up in a very competitive environment, due to China’s one-child policy. They wanted to stand out from one another. Among the targets, 45 percent expressed their individuality through music and 45 percent through fashion and lifestyle.

Based on this insight, a strategy was developed to inspire Chinese millennials to embrace their own originality with Levi’s as the vehicle. The brand had an opportunity to become a true part of the digital/mobile realm of its audience.


Overall Campaign Execution:

The campaign was mobile-focused, not only because it was the integral connection device for millennials but also because it was the best tool to engage and empower them to express themselves.

Mobile Execution:

Levi’s partnered with China’s top music app for youths, Tencent’s QQ Music, which had 200 million users. Harnessing QQ’s backend data, Levi’s selected its targets’ favorite songs that best embodied its brand spirit. Playing these songs unlocked a selection of Levi’s original images, a media first in China. On QQ Music, Chinese millennials chose an image to customize with their own original statement and could then share it on WeChat. Every message became an individual story.

Levi’s even invited China’s youths to star in their own Levi’s poster, striking a pose to show their originality. Scanning a QR code on their mobile phones made these sharable socially with an original message, just like on the QQ music app. Interactive outdoor ads also called to metro passengers and guided newly empowered young fans to Levi’s stores.

Results (including context, evaluation, and market impact)

For the creative campaign, Levi’s co-created content with Chinese millennials to achieve a truly original Levi’s experience, and most importantly, drive sales.

  • The campaign boosted overall sales by 15 percent vs. last year.
  • Levi’s saw a 14 percent year-to-year increase in e-store traffic (of which 20 percent came from lower-tier cities), leading to a 45 percent year-over-year increase in Levi’s e-sales.
  • Over 2.6 million Levi’s ads were created by Chinese youths in just two weeks.
  • There were 2.9 million consumer engagements (likes, forwards, comments, shares) across the campaign.
  • Click-through was 50 percent higher than display ads.

Categories: | Industries: | Objectives: Brand Awareness | Awards: Finalist

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