Levi Strauss is convinced that today’s young women are hungry for mentors – as well as good-fitting jeans. As part of the company’s overarching empowerment theme, the Levi’s for Women brand has stepped into the role of mentor matchmaker, connecting females in their 20’s to accomplished women who share their passions. The framework, not surprisingly, is social media.
On October 18, the company introduced the beta version of its female-skewed community site, “Shape What’s to Come” (SWTC) anchored with about a dozen “ambassadors” including designers, entrepreneurs and activists. To select the ambassadors, the company “ tapped into its networks to identify inspirational millennial women from around the world,” says Mary Alderete, VP of global women’s marketing.
The site’s name is a nod to Levi’s new women’s jeans line CurveID, which is based on body shape rather than size measurements.
The community’s global launch was primarily online. It relied heavily on outreach efforts by the ambassadors, as well as content on Levi’s Facebook page, a Twitter account (@TheLevisGirl), Tumblr, Ustream, YouTube and LinkedIn. Facebook promos included a live concert and free music download by Zooey Deschanel and Matt Ward of She & Him. (Levi’s Facebook page has more than 2 million "likes.")
In the U.K., lifestyle bloggers and regional fashionistas were introduced to the site via a concert and on-stage panel discussion by SWTC ambassadors.
The site’s focus on “a new form of mentorship” grew out of a global study of millennial women that Levi’s conducted this year, says Alderete. The study showed millennials view mentorship differently; rather than a one-to-one relationship with an older person, they prefer to learn from experienced people of all ages and in different parts of the world. As a result, “we created a place where young women can collaborate with peers and mentors to [find] new experiences, careers or causes,” she says.
To be an effective matchmaker, the company seems to be looking for committed participants rather than large numbers. Users are asked about their interests, experience, goals and contact information. They are also asked to upload a picture of themselves and their workspace.
The challenge for Levi’s is to keep the member profiles from being too vague and generic. Members need to be encouraged to give specific information about their experience and skills. That way, the matches made by the site can be well-targeted, and up-and-comers will know if a prospective mentor is knowledgable and well-connected enough to be helpful. Currently, the experience data is less prominent in the member profiles as other, less specific personal information.
The site then gives members contact info for other members with shared interests for one-to-one communication. It also features public discussions, hosted by ambassadors that members can join.
For inspiration, the site offers video and text interviews with young achievers in the entertainment, art, and non-profit worlds. Branding is fairly low-key: only the home page sports a Levi’s ad, and small logos are sprinkled throughout.
Two weeks after launch, the SWTC community had signed up only 1,000 members, per a tweet by @TheLevisGirl. “Our registration process is designed to maintain the quality and integrity of the community,” says Alderete. But she’s quick to add, “That said, we are constantly looking to improve the user experience and will refine the system as we develop the community.”
Social media is an ideal way to connect with Gen Y women, says Drew Neisser, CEO of marketing agency Renegade. With Levi’s mentor-centric community, “the risk is modest as long as Levi’s remains honest and engaged without trying to ‘manage’ the conversation,” Neisser says. For example, when the brand interviewed singer Janelle Monae live on Facebook, it asked the SWTC community for interview questions, empowering the target to drive the experience. “It's all in keeping with the company’s 'Go Forth' messaging,” he says.
With its growing treasure trove of member data, Levi’s may introduce other sponsors to the community, Indeed, one of the questions recently presented to the community was: “How do you feel about sponsored posts?” Asked about non-Levi’s sponsors, Alderete says, “we are currently exploring partnerships with like-minded brands and organizations.”
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Joan Voight is a Contributing Editor to ClickZ. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has covered online and offline media, marketing and advertising since the mid-1990s for several business publications. She spent nine years at Adweek magazine, where she was San Francisco bureau chief, national senior writer and contributing reporter.
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