Levi’s latest campaign looks to make denim cool again

Levi’s added Alicia Keys to its current campaign, Live in Levi’s, earlier this summer. She’s the latest spokesperson for the campaign, initially launched in 2014, promoting the fall women’s denim collection. Videos and photos of Keys in Levi’s can be found on the campaign site, a scrolling feed made with an overarching goal in mind: make it cool to wear denim. 

Levi’s teamed up with agency AKQA for the project, which also features musicians Kurt Vile, Benjamin Booker, Ryn Weaver, Ibeyi and Kavka Shishido all in jeans, jackets and tees by the brand. According to AKQA’s creative director, Tommy LeRoux, “music has always been inherently tied to the Levi’s brand’s heritage.”

A new aspect of that heritage, though, is that numbers have been declining, with the yoga-clad athleisure trend to blame, at least in part. This time last year, year-over-year sales of denim dropped 6 percent, a rare decrease for something that’s seemingly a staple in the wardrobe.

So the goal of the Live in Levi’s project is to “document people’s relationship with the brand,” according to LeRoux, including both the musicians and the people featured in the #LiveinLevis Instagrams culled by the site, as a way to pull people out of yoga pants and into something cooler, more purposeful. The site represents Levi’s strategy: to remind us that denim is rooted in our culture, as American as rock and roll and as relevant as a well-curated Instagram.

One section of the Live in Levi's landing page.
One section of the Live in Levi’s landing page.

To create this notion for a digital content site, Levi’s and AKQA piled on the beautifully shot imagery and videos of their crew of cool-looking musicians for the campaign, promoting the project on the Levis.com homepage. The end result is somewhat overwhelming and all over the place — you’ll need sometime to parse through everything.

“There is a lot going on,” said Natalie Be’er, senior interactive designer at Huge. “I wish they had focused on the beautiful media like the videos they created, but instead everything is sprinkled throughout. There’s no hierarchy that highlights what you should be looking at.”

Be’er also pointed out that the photos and videos created for the campaign is missing from Levi’s e-commerce site, where it could have been used to enhance product pages. “It feels like there’s a missed opportunity there,” she said.

The feed of #LiveinLevis Instagrams.
The feed of shoppable #LiveinLevis Instagrams.

For retailers that double as content creators, the end goal is to sell a product. Levi’s has made all of the Instagrams featured on the site shoppable, but the original artist content sporadically links to products. According to Be’er, the further content drifts away from commerce, the less relevant it becomes to the consumer.

Retailers playing the publishing game successfully — like Asos, which launched its own magazine in 2006 — rise above a sea of noise by tying their original content, including styling tips, blogger road trips and celebrity interviews, as tightly as they can to their products.

Lucie Greene, worldwide director of innovation at J. Walter Thompson, said that brands that manage to create interesting content are the ones that “align with celebrities, musicians, and cultural creatives who share similar values to the brand and enhance its image as an authority in the space it wants to sit in.”

Levi’s is in the space it wants to be — the brand said it skipped out on recruiting a so-called “influencer” with a huge social following for the campaign — it just needs consumers to want to spend a lot of time there.


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