Canada Gets Twisted: Introducing Levi's Engineered Jeans
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Canada Gets Twisted: Introducing Levi's Engineered Jeans

Designed by challenging the traditional combination of fabric, form and function, LEJ seams were twisted to provide an ergonomic fit! The PR challenge was to convince media and consumers that LEJ delivered coolness in spades.

Paul Holmes

In 2000, Levi Strauss & Co (LS&Co) launched its most significant line of denim wear in recent history - Levi’s Engineered Jeans (LEJ) - in hopes of attracting a younger audience and rejuvenating the Levi’s “coolness” factor.  Designed by challenging the traditional combination of fabric, form and function, LEJ seams were twisted to provide an ergonomic fit!  The PR challenge was to convince media and consumers that LEJ delivered coolness in spades and that the products were must-have, hot items for cool teens.

RESEARCH

LEJ was first launched with tremendous response in Japan and England and then in the US where it generated a less enthusiastic reception.  The client believed in the benefits of integrated marketing communications and organized a number of information sharing sessions between the LEJ brand team, the advertising agency and the public relations team.  Comprehensive proprietary information was provided by LS&Co including competitive marketplace data, brand equity and demographic analysis.  LSK also undertook a media analysis of other denim lines available in Canada and spoke with key editorial contacts.  Key learnings included the role of influencers with this target audience (15-24 years) - fashion magazines for “guidance”; emulation of what celebrities wear at events and in the media, the importance of music and dance; and “what’s hot” as seen on the street (street-wear).

PLANNING

The objectives of the PR program were to:

1.  Successfully launch, build awareness and create desire for LEJ products

2.  Help make the Levi’s brand cool again with the target audience

The target audience was identified as 15 -24 year old consumers.  The primary markets were Toronto and Montreal, with Vancouver as a secondary market (the campaign was conducted in English and French).  Budget was $240,500 – consisting of $152,000 for agency fees and $88,500 for out-of-pocket costs.

Strategy was to reach the audience by leveraging the importance of music, dance and street wear; and bring the traditional influencers – fashion writers – onside. PR activities would reflect the energy and coolness of the LEJ brand positioning.  One of the major obstacles LSK had to overcome was the lack of LEJ clothing in Canada for the first stages of the PR program.  LSK worked with our New York and Los Angeles offices to secure LEJ product.  

EXECUTION

The “word-of-mouth” initiative began by briefing key fashion editors in Toronto and Montreal to encourage coverage before the product was available in Canada.  To make the clothes come to life and highlight their coolness, LSK brought models outfitted in LEJ to the desk-side briefings.  Magazine stylists were next advised that LEJ was now available for upcoming projects. 

To gain street credibility with the fickle teen consumer, LSK identified individuals the teen market looked to for style.  More than 30 key influencers participating in special events (i.e. bands and show hosts) targeted to the LEJ brand target audience were outfitted with LEJ clothing.  LEJ items were worn at various appearances including NXNE Concert Series, national and international concert tours, video shoots, CD release parties.  Seeding opportunities were also examined and a list of key influencers was researched and developed which included: musicians, actors, TV personalities, VJs and DJs.  LSK liaised to determine interest and sizes, and product was sent in specially developed packaging along with product information in the hopes that these individuals would wear the product in public, thereby making it “cool”.

Because of the importance of music, dance and street wear to this youth audience, ‘Spontaneous’ street fashion shows with five dancers in LEJ products were organized in high-traffic locations in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.  Music was created for the fashion show to reflect the brand’s “coolness” and appeal to the target audience.  LSK facilitated choreography development; rehearsals; venue selections; scheduling; clothing/styling; troupe transportation; site direction and show management.  LSK produced ‘temporary’ LEJ tattoos that dancers distributed to the public on the streets as a cool leave behind and for brand reinforcement.  Locations in each market were pre-selected and included popular downtown spots frequented by the target audience -- club and movie line-ups, outdoor cafes, as well as bars where LEJ was being advertised.  

LEJ was officially unveiled at Systems Sound Bar in downtown Toronto, a venue that was a frequented by the target demographic.  The objective was to show the new LEJ line with attitude and coolness, and present the advertising campaign and Much Stylin’ vignettes.  To create a “cool vibe”, LSK decorated the venue “a la rave style” complete with glow sticks, gum drops and candy rings.  Rotating legs were hung from the ceiling dressed in LEJ and one of Toronto’s hottest underground DJs was on-site to spin the tunes.  The fashion show, emceed by media personality Juliette Powell, was definitely non-traditional, featuring dancers – instead of models - who effectively displayed the ease of movement of the new line.  The twisted side seams were reflected through “twisted” choreography and the strobe lights and original techno music combined to make the audience feel like they were experiencing an evening out as if they were the target demographic. 

To keep LEJ top-of-mind with the target audience, LSK developed promotions with two national publications, three radio stations (one in each key market); and an on-line promotion with a popular French website.

EVALUATION

Objective 1:  Successfully launch, build awareness and create desire for LEJ products

The PR campaign created a buzz and demand for the new Levi’s Engineered Jeans line -- by the end of November, LEJ had become one of the hottest fashion items of 2000.  Seeding created interest in the product before it launched and many stores in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver had waiting lists from customer requests for the new line.  

With the success of the dancers at the LEJ Launch Event, LS&Co. requested they visit Original Levi’s Stores.  And it paid off - the Original Levi’s Store on Robson Street sold out of LEJ within the first two days the dancers performed in Vancouver, and while performing in the Original Levi’s Store at the Toronto Eaton Centre, people left the Gap across the mall to come and watch the dancers perform and later stayed to buy the jeans.  Levi Strauss & Co. had trouble keeping stores in stock, and the LEJ dress sold out so quickly in Ontario that by mid September waiting lists were put in place for Spring 2001 delivery.  

Desk-side Media Briefings generated more than 7 editorial placements.  The LEJ launch event attracted nearly 50 media as well as LS&Co key accounts, customers and marketing partners – the result was 22 articles, 6 television pieces and 4 online stories.  Through radio and print promotions over 6,000,000 people were reached with the LEJ key messages.

Objective 2: Help make the Levi’s brand cool again

Coolness for the target audience is defined by what they see and experience rather than what they are told.  Product placement was targeted at bands and entertainers that 15-24 year old admire and emulate, including SoulDecision (LEJ worn in their “Ooh it’s kinda crazy” video), Shaggy (LEJ worn in the video for his new song “It wasn’t me” and on MuchMusic live), David Usher, lead singer for Moist (LEJ worn at public appearances), Rachel Perry, Much Music VJ (LEJ dress worn several times on air).  Boy band the Moffats were so anxious to get LEJ outfits, their agent called to see if they could receive them in advance to wear during their new concert tour – and they have been wearing them throughout their Canadian tour.  
Feedback the dancers received from the audience included: “Cool way of promoting Levi’s”; “Wow this is Levi’s – they look cool”; “That’s cool”; and “Good concept. You guys rock”.  A mini-media audit LSK conducted in late November asked “ did the LEJ campaign move the needle on coolness?  Is the Levi’s brand cooler now?” and elicited the following responses:  National Post: “it is cooler”; Teen tribute: “I think Levi’s is cool”; Hits 103.5 radio: “Levi’s is seen as cooler”; FW magazine: “the buzz was so hot”. 

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