Gen Z and a few late Gen Y-ers are America's future. Levi's new “Go forth” ad campaign seems to be a rebranding effort aimed at one company's perception of where these cohorts are in the 2009 Zeitgeist –namely, that these young people are adventurous, eco-conscious, idealistic, and optimistic. Has Levi's hit the mark?
Obama’s election would indicate yes, but election day in November 2008 predated the full impact of today's Scary Recession by eight months (yesterday, unemployment hit 9.5 percent, with job losses widespread across industry sectors). So, maybe not.
Widen+Kennedy, the agency that developed the “go forth” campaign, displays talent, to be sure. Their creative strategy encourages a different way to look at Levi's and employs widespread messaging on TV and in print (that may be a bit old-fashioned already; I'd like to have heard more about their social media strategy). On the other hand, some 60-second spots will show in urban movie theatres in cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Boston, New York, and Miami.
Essentially, the “Go Forth” message harkens back to the "Go West, young man," era, when all things were still possible. Thus, Levi's re-positions itself as the jeans for the “Yes, we can” generation (Note: when I did a Google search on “go forth,” Levi’s new website came up as the fifth hit. Smart. Check it out here. Also note that the website is actually titled “goforth.levi.com/newdeclaration.”
But, will Gen Z -- clearly the target audience --buy this? Gen Y may already have been counted out of the game, since Levis' messaging, subliminally at least, critizies Gen Y's pre-recession excesses, when it was cool, if not mandatory, to wear designer jeans. "Go Forth" shouts out for a de-emphasis on consumption, with copy that says “strike up for the new world” and “this country was not built by men in suits.” I assume that Gen X and baby boomers are out of this battle altogether. I'm dated to say that I haven't heard of a single magazine where Widen+Kennedy will place print ads: Fader, Filter, Vice, Soma, Blackbook, Paper, Anthem, and Spin.
Which is not to predict whether or not this thing is going to work. Notably, though, the London-based and very edgy me-me-me.tv. is already finding Levi’s campaign “a bit creepy." The criticism seems to be that the campaign doesn’t ring true. Me-me-me mocks the Go Forth message, saying, “'There is a better tomorrow,' apparently. 'Look across the plains and mountains.' Oh, shut up! As if anyone lives near plains and mountains. 'And see America’s eternal promise… Go forth with me.' Tell you what. You go forth. We’ll stay here and finish these drinks."
The Levi's campaign should be able to very quickly disclose how damaged our Gen Z kids have been by the woes of economic chaos. Is there any energy left to “Go forth”? I suspect Levi's is about to answer that.
-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo