Social Marketing Case Study: Levi’s Project 501

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Levi Project’s VP of Marketing, Patrice Varni, spoke at the Forrester Marketing conference about’s Project 501, Levi’s user submitted design contest. The project was launched using a branded entertainment segment on the television show Project Runway and an online campaign targeted to women. Digital Podcast covered the launch of the program and asked the question about whether this kind of campaign, done on Levi’s site, could drive a big enough audience to make the investment worthwhile.

Patrice spoke about how at the very start all the parts of the program were completely disconnected. Someone had arranged for the branded entertainment piece on the Project Runway show and as a part of that got a large online buy on the Bravo site.

The project landed in Patrice’s lap and she went to Avenue A/Razorfish and had them develop an online campaign oriented around a very detailed map of all the touch points. Once they had completed the map, they went back through the map and made sure that they incorporated selling pants into the program in a way that featured the right products.

They got 3,000 design submissions to the contest for designing a new Levi’s product. Over 2000 of the submissions complied with the rules. The campaign got 134,000 unique visitors and almost 19,000 registered users. Two-thirds of those were women in target age group of 18 to 25 years old. They had 122,000 design ratings. They also got 924 social networking/blog badges with over 30,000 views.

Interestingly word of mouth marketing on social media like blogs and social networks turned out to be a major driver of awareness about the campaign. Social media drove 38% of the awareness about the campaign as compared to 30% of awareness coming from TV and low single digit for everything else.

During the five weeks that the program was running, the top 5 selling products changed from traditional products to the featured products. The traditional core products had a price point of about 44 dollars and sold to an older demographic. The products featured in the campaign were Levi store exclusive, more fashion forward and had price range of 58 to 70 dollars. Literally overnight they got a different demographic and a sales lift that made a measurable impact on sales.

Once the campaign ended, the top 5 selling products switched back to the traditional top 5 selling products.

Patrice said that they had to steal themselves to the loss of control and reaction during the program. Once they had chosen a winner, they had some very negative comments from people who didn’t win. This caused some consternation about the comments and debate about what to do about the comments. Levi decided to leave the comments up and it turned out well as the community policed the problem well.

Perhaps the most important part of the program was the way the program changed the way the company worked to get the digital team working with the marketing team. The online and traditional agencies had to work together to make this work.

While the results may not seem tremendous, Patrice felt that the program was a tremendous success, due to the organizational learning and the level of engagement.

It is very interesting to see Levi’s willingness to experiment and the results of this program. Project 501 clearly provided some hands on learning and capability building for Levi. It is clear that this kind of program can drive sales. The challenge now becomes how how to scale this type of program into a more significant campaign and how to make it more than a five week program.

[tags]social marketing, case study, Levi[/tags]

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6 thoughts on “Social Marketing Case Study: Levi’s Project 501

  1. Thanks for sharing this example, Alex. I’m glad these results are viewed as outstanding by Levi’s and the others involved. I think there is more power and more value in the smaller, intimate discussions and transactions than in the shotgun blast of traditional broadcast marketing. This example seems to validate that rationale.

    Do you know which specific elements of social media were deployed and/or the relative success of each?

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