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Levi’s Tries Cause Marketing on for Size
By: Christine Turnier
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What do jeans, clean water, and South African orphans have in common? Levi Strauss & Co.
Levi’s recently launched their Go Forth campaign to generate awareness and funding for innovative non-profit organizations. In exchange for fan engagement (be it a like on Facebook, a tweet on Twitter, or a view on YouTube) Levi’s will donate money to a cause. This has helped bring clean water to over 8,000 communities in Africa for life through Water.org, and will contribute to educational programs for South African orphans affected by the AIDS epidemic in their country through Thanda After-School. It might seem like a strange mix, but while it is promoting do-gooders, this could do the Levi’s brand a world of good too.
Levi’s used to be the dominant player in the jeans market, but over the past several years the brand has seen its position as leader erode, caught between cheaper products from overseas and a rise in premium jean brands like 7 For All Mankind. In an attempt to boost their bottom line, Levi’s struck partnerships with retail outlets like Walmart, which increased distribution but may have had some negative long-term effects.
All this has led to a bit of brand schizophrenia. Why do people want to buy Levi’s jeans? What does the brand stand for? And what exactly does clean water have to do with it?
The Levi’s Go Forth campaign is an excellent example of cause marketing. By partnering with non-profits that share its values, Levi’s can emphasize what makes the brand unique. Unlike cheaper competitors, Levi’s isn’t concerned with an unending race to the bottom. And unlike premium brand jeans, Levi’s isn’t for people simply concerned with looking good. Levi’s is the brand for leaders, change-makers, and revolutionaries.
This cause marketing campaign works for two very important reasons:
It reestablishes Levi’s as the brand of choice for pioneers. Regardless of its position in the market, the Levi’s brand has always stood for rugged individualism. The name of the campaign alone speaks volumes. You want to go forth, to take the world by storm. Levi’s gets it. Each organization nominated for support is called a pioneer, a word infused with the same attributes Levi's is trying to reclaim.
It repositions Levi’s within a global context. These jeans have always been tied to a uniquely American story. Founded by an immigrant and built into an empire, Levi Strauss & Co. embodies what many believe it means to be American — tough, daring, and cool. In an increasing global environment, this could translate to a narrow, U.S.-only view of the brand. So far, the two pioneering organizations spotlighted by Levi's are operating outside the United States. This helps break the brand out beyond its American roots.
There are, of course, many other great benefits to a cause marketing campaign. Let’s not forget that Levi’s is raising money and awareness for some fantastic organizations that are creating positive change where it is needed most.
Good on you, Levi’s.
What do you think of the Go Forth campaign? Does it change how you perceive the Levi's brand?

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About the Author
Christine Turnier is not a ninja or a guru. She is a marketing and social media strategist. Find out more at bril-yunt.com or @cmturnier.
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