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Why Levi’s is looking to its musical roots to drive relevance for young consumers

Levi’s is attempting to recruit millennials via a new tie up with the Victoria & Albert Museum that sees the denim retailer launch a global community-based music project to prove its relevance among young consumers.

The 163 year-old company wants to demonstrate its “authentic” voice in an increasingly competitive fashion landscape and has teamed with the V&A for both an exhibition at the museum that explores the culture of rebellion through music and its influence on fashion during the 60’s, and the #supportmusic campaign.

Launching with an exclusive performance by London-born rapper and grime artist, Skepta, the activity will give young people the opportunity to gain experience in all areas of the modern music world, and spend time with Skepta and a host of music industry insiders.

The project is running across the globe in China, India, Europe and the US, with each market working with an artist to give back to their local community. That could be through music writing classes or providing equipment for young people to make their own music.

Speaking to The Drum Levi’s global chief marketing officer Jen Sey said that the project is an important way to assert Levi’s “authenticity and self-expression” and also “put the brand at the centre of culture again”.

“Music has been so integral to who we are and what we stand for but we hadn’t really actively pursued it consistently,” she admitted. “So in the last few years we have chosen to do that and work with artists in some more traditional ways… [but] the latest and the newest feature is the Levi’s Music Project. What we sought to do was take the company’s history of community and philanthropy – and the company has been engaged in those behaviours since its inception in 1853 – and to merge that with Levi’s point of view around music.”

While Sey admitted that it is a challenge to recruit younger people into the brand she said that Levi’s provenance and values are an attractive proposition.

“I think they really do value authenticity and I think the other thing they value is transparency and doing the right thing. While some might be discovering Levi’s for the first time, when they discover those things [such as] the community involvement, the sustainability principles, it is a pretty easy way to engage and connect even if their parents wear Levi’s too.

“Sure yes we have to engage them and convince them that we are a contemporary brand that has something for them, but they are very open and I think that they really respect and admire the values that the brand has always stood for, it’s not easy but it’s not impossible.”

Another demographic Levi’s has set its sights on in recent years is women, who though might like Levi’s as a brand, haven’t necessarily been convinced of the design and fit of the products. To turn this around Levi’s has been pushing user generated content on its Live in Levi’s platform, which launched in 2014, and recruited singer Alicia Keys for recent campaigns.

Levi’s has also been leveraging the power of influencers and bloggers to connect with women and woo them in to the brand.

“I think for women in particular [influencers are like that] woman in your friend set that you take advice from, finding those people and then a click up from that are the bloggers who we take advice from. Those people are so important at the local level to driving connection and engagement.”

The #supportmusic campaign will be promoted through Levis.com and its social channels as well as through the sale of a promotional pin, with profits going towards building future music projects.

The V&A 'You say you want a revolution? Records & Rebels 966-1970' exhibition exhibition opened on Tuesday (6 September).