Levi’s released a marketing campaign in august called “Levi’s Legacy”. Among other things, it depicts a young man facing off with riot police. The ad is inspiring to some and alienating to others, and worthy of note to business owners, marketers and humans in general.
“Legacy” is one of a string of “Go Fourth”ads, developed by Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon, that uses words from poets such as Whitman and Braddock. “Legacy” borrows from Charles Bukowski’s poem, The Laughing Heart.
“Your life is your life, don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission…”
The less soulful will not like the ad. If that is you, skip these musings and look up “Bukowski ad parody” on Youtube.
According to Levi’s “Legacy” was released exclusively on Facebook and then later on TV and movie screens- the first ever world release. The ad was delayed in the UK because of the riots there this summer.
What’s the message in the ad? Hope. The ad is filled with vivid images of emotional moments- the ocean, wind, a peaceful protest, sunset, party, sex, music, celebration- spirituality really.
In a brilliant move, it starts out with a first person perspective, which it uses as a theme, intermixed with close personal shots of people, many of which are wearing their product. In the background, a voice of wisdom tells us that we may not win all the battles, but we should seize the moments of joy as they are provided by “the gods”.
There are several components that definitely alienate great segments of society. The use of the word “gods” will offend a great many Christians, Islamists, atheists and other monotheists. Others may not like the themes of party, music and celebration. Still others will point out that this is just another marketing campaign by a major corporation.
On the other hand, this ad offers something that is in short supply right now- hope. Politicians, corporations, religious organizations all talk about what this generation is losing- jobs, health care, housing, security, family. This generation is told that it will just have to do without health care, just have to do without retirement, just have to do with less freedom. All this while the cost of food, gas, education and living in general continues to rise, as does the salary of many corporate executives. Many have a hard time believing in even themselves when they can’t work. All this after a rough decade following 9-11, and terrorist acts and wars around the world.
Here’s is the strength of Levi’s ad. It calls for individuals to look for the positive now, to look for a destiny beyond one’s self- the gods, the greater good, humanity, love. At the same time it sticks with it’s branding of being true to yourself. That’s a message we all connect with on some level.
The irony is that it is a corporate brand message (Levi’s) being distributed on a corporate network (Facebook) where many real, personal relationships are maintained and formed. So where does the corporate branding end and authenticity begin?
Perhaps it’s a matter of understanding their customer, making friends really. Levi’s understands the emotions that a great many of it’s potential customers are feeling. It’s being relevant.
To top it all off, part of the campaign supports Water.org, which helps needy communities get clean drinking water. It’s hard to get much more authentic than that.
Here’s what Becca Van Dyck, global chief marketing officer of the Levi’s®brand had to say: “Now, more than ever, the world needs inspiration. The world needs people with a pioneering spirit who still believe that anything is possible. Our 60-second ‘Go Forth’ film and digital engagement program recognize people around the globe who are stepping forward to transform the world. Through Facebook, we hope to inspire people to join us in supporting the important work of today’s pioneers.”
This article isn’t a call to idolize a jeans company or ad. It is an appeal to those of us who are both human and business professionals to be relevant, to ask ourselves: in the world of the almighty corporate dollar and ever consuming people, which side are we on, or can we co-exist? Are we relevant? Can we be friends?