Jeans brand Levi’s wanted to generate some buzz earlier this year around their new Curve ID line of women’s jeans—jeans specially constructed for a woman’s shape, not her size, and based on reducing thousands of body scans of actual jeans customers down to four basic “templates”.
The company was planning to launch trunk shows for the jeans in major metros in March. But they wanted to do something that would build awareness and excitement before those shows came to town.
The answer was looking them square in the face: Get real women fashion bloggers to try on and talk about the jeans in their own video presentations, and trust that their reviews would carry weight with their audiences in a way that marketing messages from the company never could.
That’s exactly what Levi’s did, with the help of new media agency and production studio Katalyst.
“We said to Levi’s, ‘Let us go find a bunch of very enthusiastic women that have reach, in different shapes, sizes and colors, and let them tell the story,’” says Katalyst president Anthony Batt. “They’ll do an amazing job. They’ll run a 30-second or two-minute ad that you couldn’t duplicate with $2 million at an ad agency—because it would always look like an ad.”
Katalyst sought out 14 online fashion gurus who ran YouTube video blogs discussing and reviewing their clothing and beauty product favorites, got them into the jeans, and basically let them say and do what they wanted. The bloggers ranged from well-known YouTube figures like Kandee Johnson and JulieG, with their own YouTube channels and hundreds of thousands of subscribing fans (540,000 for Ms. Johnson, 317,000 for JulieG), to somewhat less luminous but still well-regarded bloggers such as Euchante (18,000 subscribers) and DRBrooklyn730 (31,000 subs).
All the videos were posted in the first two weeks of March. The women were not paid for including Levi’s Curve ID jeans in their blogs, although some of them did choose to run giveaways of $50 gift card to their audiences. All acknowledged in copy or in their video titles that they were part of the Curve ID promotion.
Nor were they given any help in scripting or producing their videos, because the brand and Katalyst wanted them to speak in their own voices to the online audiences they already knew well. Some were most comfortable with a variant of the basic talking head format, while others, such as a blooger named Elle, did much longer and more highly produced posts involving split-screen effects.
“That’s her shtick, and if we’d told her to do anything else, she would have refused,” says Batt. “We simply asked them to review the jeans. We didn’t offer any assistance. We wanted their content to be authentic within their audience streams, just like the other videos they produce on their own.” The videos appeared only within the bloggers’ existing YouTube channels; no effort was made to aggregate them into a Curve ID channel.
The bloggers also encouraged their fans to go to the Levi’s Curve ID Facebook page and use the Curve ID app to answer a few questions about their body shape and find the ideal jean size. (Women can also take the quiz at the Levi’s main Web site or can simply enter their measurements to get their correct Curve ID jeans fit.)
The result of the video campaign was a combined total of 1.5 million YouTube vide views for the promotion by the 14 bloggers, as well as 7.1 million impressions on Twitter. At one point just as the videos were launching, the comments viewers were adding to the videos reached 250 an hour, according to Katalyst metrics.
“It’s pretty shocking that something that’s mostly a promotion would get that many comments,” Batt says. “Internet ads would never get any comments.”
In late March the video buzz campaign moved to store events in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco where four of the bloggers got to meet fans and talk about the Curve ID jeans. Videos made of their appearances were then made available to them for posting on their channels.
“Our plan was to put all these videos out there and then take the four that really popped and send those bloggers to do store events,” Batt says. “I was at the San Francisco store with Kandee [Johnson], and there was a 300-person line to meet her.”
The Levi’s staff and executives were floored by the turnout, he says. “They had no idea how much this audience really tunes into these girls. These girls really have draw.”
Levi’s is now preparing to launch a fifth Curve ID jeans body shape, and while no decision has been reached about whether to promote the line extension with another round of blog seeding, the brand is convinced that this first round of social marketing was a success, Batt says.
“It’s a unique approach, and while it’s been done by other brands, this time it worked for the right reasons,” he says. “The promotion told a story, and that’s what we look for in campaigns we create.”