Will Unbuttoned Films be a branded content success for Levi’s?

I started a post last month that I never finished. It was a response to the latest viral video from Levi’s called “Guys backflip into jeans.” I was planning on taking Levi’s to town for doing a disservice to a great American brand through a lack of creativity. But before I could finish the post, Ian Schafer beat me to it when he asked if “we have run out of viral video ideas…or just directors.” You see, that Levi’s video was a plain rip-off from a Ray-Bans viral video from 2007. What was sad about the Levi’s effort is that it was the same director as Ray-Bans…and the Marketing Director at Levi’s who bought the idea was at Ray-Bans ad agency when the video was first crafted. Even worse, when your brand’s major equity is “original”, it is just plain bad business to not be original in your marketing.

So needless to say, I wasnt very impressed with “Backflip” because that type of lack of creativity gives all of us marketers a bad name. However, Levi’s is starting to win me over because they didnt stop at just one film. In fact, they have created a YouTube channel called Unbuttoned Films and have continued to release two more films called “Super chill monkey does Hollywood” and “Guys fill their jeans with helium.” What is impressive is that they have found a way to keep their 501 Jeans at the center of each film. You can tell that the creative brief for each probably said “You can film anything you want…but it needs to have at least one shot where the main character buttons/unbuttons the 501 jeans.” Good branded content isn’t about slapping your brand logo everywhere in a film. But at the same time, it isnt just about making funny or outrageous content either. To make something work, it needs to be entertaining AND it needs to build your brand equities in some way. Levi’s seems to realize that, which is why I am giving them a second chance.

Now I’m interested to see if Levi’s continues to have success with these videos. The “Backflip” video has almost 4 million views so far. But the “Chill Monkey” follow-up only has 400K views and “Helium” doesn’t even have 100K views. Not exactly strong numbers but I applaud their efforts to keep going with this branded content….that is, as long as they stay original and faithful to the brand.

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2 Responses to Will Unbuttoned Films be a branded content success for Levi’s?

  1. Robby Wells says:

    Nice post. I am a massive fan of Levis – the brand, product, and legacy. I only wear Levis jeans. I refuse to even hit play on these videos because I am confident that there is a BM and media team (hey B!) eager to count my view towards their false sense of success. I can respect that they creatively found a way to work their product into these videos, but Levis is a brand with real heritage. Something so few brands can claim – why not acknowledge it. I am confident that there is a creative way to develop video content – if that is the medium of choice – that highlights this great heritage and brand promise and will still attracts relevant viewers. If they want to look contemporary, why not create mini-docs highlighting their creative collaborations with people like KAWS or Hiroshi Fujiwara or others. These guys have huge, meaningful, global fanbases that would likely go to an art house movie theater to watch a documentary about the collaborations. Document the creative process. Document the way these contemporary designers view and respect a brand with so much heritage. Monkeys? Helium? Where is the respect for the brand? This shit would never go down on my watch šŸ™‚

  2. Dave Knox says:

    Robby – Great points as always. Can’t argue with a man that loves his Bathing Ape and Levi’s. I’m really interested by what you point out for the “respect” and “legacy” of the brand. I’ve always been surprised they havent leveraged that more. For instance, I heard about them doing a small promotion around Warhol’s love of Levi’s…but in the same breath they are doing that, they are announcing deals with Nike/Jordan, Project Runway and doing these videos. I hadnt thought about their need to really deliver on the brand promise with a singular voice but you nailed it.

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