By Bryan Douglass
Levi's -- the OG of the denim set, the original San Francisco start-up, the 140-year-old staple of American fashion -- is celebrating the launch of their First Global Skateboarding Collection with a new skate park ... in Bangalore, India. The Holy Stoked skate park is the collaborative result of local skaters, a collection of pros and some construction specialists from Germany, all flown in by Levi's to turn a cleared tract next to the Holy Stoked office into the best skate session in Asia.
It took the crew just two weeks to complete the park and turn from construction to exhibition. Planning it -- and the effort to transform a brand into a socially-amplified digital power -- must have taken much longer ... because it's rather brilliant.
Consider the journey.
Following economic boom in the 1990's, the denim mavericks were a proven power of the American market, listed as a member of the Fortune 500 with happy investors and a proven reputation as an industry leader. In 1996, the company began to slide. For a multitude of reasons (including a lack of marketing to new audience, lack of innovation in marketing and an unchanged product line that failed to excite young consumers), market shares began falling… and they continued falling for the next 10 years.
In 2007 the company reorganized and started making changes to their business strategy, getting aggressive in pursuing specific audiences via specialized product lines. The initial ventures included a line of jeans tailored as an elegant-yet-functional option for working professionals. Levi's also developed a "Signature" series targeting discount chains such as Walmart and Target.
Today, Levi's is finally looking to address the audience they covet most: youth. The kids of today have more options than ever before, and many no longer view Levi’s as a head-and-shoulders option and regular object of desire. The ten-year slide put Levi's behind the times not only in marketing product, but also in marketing strategy… and while the efforts to innovate the product line were providing better fortunes, Levi’s was still lagging the rest of the Fortune 500 in one major area.
So ... here we are in 2013. Levi’s wants to reconnect with the new young consumers. They've proven they can evolve a new product line specific for an audience, but they need a jump start to get in on the digital marketing age.
Consider the facts.
That's where skateboarding in India comes in.
Skateboarding ... it's kind of a big deal. The most recent studies suggest there are 50 million active skateboarders in the United States today, with over 100 million skating globally. The Facebook page for Street League Skateboarding (the closest thing to a professional league in skateboarding) has over 820k "Likes" (as a comparison, Major League Soccer owns 520k, while the NHL owns a touch over two million ... and Tony Hawk has 4.7 million). Ask.com notes skateboard sales exceeded $4.8 billion globally last year.
Social media ... also, kind of a big deal. Facebook currently boasts over 1 billion users, a number YouTube shares. Twitter owns 500 million. 100 million users are active on Instagram. Twenty-seven percent of the time spent on the internet in the US is spent on social media. YouTube earns more daily connection from US adults than cable television. Here's the best one: last month, social media beat pornography as the top Internet activity for the first time ever. Now consider social media for kids. Last year, 78 percent of parents help their kids set up Facebook accounts. Over 60 percent of kids aged 13-17 own at least one social account, and most of them spent an average of two hours per day on social media (the average age of the skateboarder: 14).
To review: the world loves skateboarding. Most skateboarders are young. Young people love social media. Those connections are easy to understand, and it leaves us with one question.
1.24 billion people live in India (the second-most populated country in the world). Recent studies show internet penetration is rapidly improving, indicating 75 percent of India's population accesses the web daily via mobile device (and 4G service isn't available over most of the country). Oreo recently ran a specific ad campaign known as Daily Dunks for its India Facebook page, and in doing so ...
a) exceeded three million total page "Likes"
b) earned a 35.3 percent growth rate (versus the average 9.6 percent for the Food/Beverage industry in similar scenarios)
c) is now pushing that campaign to Twitter.
India is unique, it's exotic, and it’s just starting to bloom… not only as a digital community, but also as a young skateboarding community.
Take your proven gifts in developing a new line for the brand. Attach it to a socially-amplified source of passion for younger generations. Drive it via the platforms younger generations appreciate. Take it all where it’s never been before. Share and pay it forward.
That's how Levi's landed in India to build a skatepark. That's how Levi's jump-started their digital marketing. That's brilliant.