"Smart marketers know that it’s no longer the marketers’ brand – it’s the consumers’ brand. Letting go of that control is somewhat the point—our fans want to communicate with a real, genuine personality who embodies the spirit of Levi’s." -Mary Alderete
Oh Levi's. Iconic and innovative, your early foray into integrating the Facebook Open Graph led me quickly down the path of impulse purchasing three pairs of skinny jeans (which I wear all the time) - and all three cost less than one pair of the designer equivalent. That's a sweet spot.
With a nod to the trend of leveraging social media to identify and select brand ambassadors to act as employees, the brand's latest social campaign is looking for "authentic, stylish and social media-savvy millennial women" to submit videos (through its crowdsourcing Facebook app) to become the new brand voice for women. The next Levi's Girl will help to shape the Shape What’s to Come mentorship community and receive a six-month paid position to work alongside the “Levi’s Guy” in the marketing department at headquarters in San Francisco.
Most delightfully, Mary Alderete, Vice President of Global Women’s Marketing, Levi Strauss & Co, agreed to a few additional questions about their social media strategy, community and the role of research in driving the brand forward.
Q: Levi's really seems to understand and value a community-driven approach to digital content (integrating Facebook Open Graph, establishing a proprietary social network, seeking brand ambassadors to act as official brand employees/spokespeople). Can you talk a bit about why this approach works for Levi's, what value it brings (in terms of brand loyalty, WOM, sales) and how this approach has been positioned/adopted internally?
Levi’s® has always been a cultural icon, especially for young people. Therefore it’s crucial that we understand each incoming generation and how they interpret their world. For Shape What’s To Come specifically, we feel it’s important to better understand the mindset of up and coming Millennial women because of the significant cultural and societal impact they’ll have as our future leaders.
Our community-driven approach to digital content is about more than being the largest jeans brand for women—it’s also important to be the most relevant brand. We want to provide Millennial women around the world with products and opportunities that fit her – both literally and figuratively.
Q: In Shape What's To Come, Levi's has moved way beyond product (or conversations that appear to be more about lifestyle but are in fact, just about product!) - why do this on a separate domain and not on Facebook?
Levi’s has made a significant worldwide commitment to women, conducting a global study to better understand the challenges, expectations, goals and experiences 20-somethings face around the world. Based on this global research, Levi’s created ShapeWhatsToCome.com, an online community encouraging women to connect, collaborate, and engage with other like-minded women across the globe – addressing Millennial women’s need for a new form of mentorship.
We found in our research that women wanted to engage in this kind of mentorship on a platform outside of Facebook, as they reserve Facebook for everyday conversations with friends.
Q: Can you share any success metrics to date?
We can’t share specific metrics at this time but anecdotally we see that women are really using the site in the way we intended. For example we’re seeing the Shape What’s to Come mentorship in action every day via discussion boards, ambassador communication and interaction, and the community has even resulted in an organic internship opportunity.
Q: Who is in charge of managing this community and how did you go about choosing ambassadors?
The community is currently managed by Meghan Smith –aka the Levi’s Girl – who serves a community leader, providing ongoing updates, inspirational stories and a behind-the-scenes look at the community and its members.
Each ambassador is redefining success on her own terms, taking a unique path to reach her goals and uniquely shaping her future. Ranging from up-and-coming artists and performers to twenty-something entrepreneurs and advocates for social change, these ambassadors act as catalysts for sharing stories, swapping ideas and rallying around shared causes.
Q: Why do you feel this idea of mentorship resonates so strongly with your customer?
When conducting research to form the basis of Shape What’s to Come, we found that Millennial women are re-imagining traditional mentorship —transforming it into a communal exchange. It’s two-way rather than one-way, shared among many women rather than individually. Some interesting statistics from our study include:
- 94 percent of Millennial women agree that the best mentors are people whom you can both give advice to and receive advice from.
- 88 percent agree that a mentor is someone who helps them shape their future, regardless of their age or professional experience.
- 77 percent say that mentors can be someone their own age.
Q: The idea of bringing on a fan as an employee/brand ambassador is not new, but seems to be gaining in popularity. Why does it make sense for Levi's? What are the risks/benefits associated with this type of contest?
Again, for us it’s all about embodying the energy and events of our times. Engaging with a “real” brand ambassador is an authentic and organic way to speak to our fans.
When any company employs a real fan as a face for our brand, you relinquish a little bit of “control” over the brand voice. However, smart marketers know that it’s no longer the marketers’ brand – it’s the consumers’ brand. Letting go of that control is somewhat the point—our fans want to communicate with a real, genuine personality who embodies the spirit of Levi’s.
Q: What emerging technologies, trends, or opportunities are driving the marketing conversations at Levi's?
As a company, Levi Strauss & Co. aims to embody the energy and events of our time, inspiring people from all walks of life with a pioneering spirit—and that philosophy is woven throughout all of our marketing efforts. For example, the SWTC community is focused on four pillars for women: music, fashion, art and media, and social change. These are based on areas where Levi’s has played a significant role for generations.
Q: Finally, one of my Twitter followers wants to know if you are planning CurveID for men - to quote: "men have booty too!"
We’ve been investing in great fits, finishes and craftsmanship in our men’s product as well. This season, we’re excited to introduce our new Water Less™ line, made using significantly less water. The first collection of Water Less™ products is in stores now and includes an array of options, including the classic Levi’s 501 jeans and the ever-popular 511 and 514 jeans.