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The Levi's Campaign that Levi's Didn't Create

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Levi’s® has always been about its “original” and “cool” image, but Chinese Millennials believed the brand was unrelated to them. This was the problem faced by Levi’s® in China. 

Levi’s® fundamental issue was that the brand didn’t excite or inspire the younger generation. Levi’s® had lost its denim leadership to rival Lee in China’s lower tier cities, putting it at a disadvantaged position for its brand growth. 

Just like Millennials around the world, young Chinese loved social media. Selfies! Food pictures! Fashion posts! However, looking closer at Millennials’ social posts in China, they weren’t vanity or just for fun. Each post reflected who they were and what made them unique. This matched the essence of Levi’s® brand exactly, yet these Millennials didn’t relate the Levi’s® brand to themselves. 


Whilst Levi’s® target market was the same globally, in China 45% of them expressed their individuality through music and 45% through fashion and style. Mobile was the device they relied on for doing so: Chinese Millennials spend an average of 3.8 hours on mobile everyday (Sina news). Levi’s® had a clear opportunity to engage and assert the originality of Levi’s® brand rooted in style and music for China’s young generation through mobile. 

When Levi’s® launched its global campaign “We Are Original” in China, OMD knew it needed Chinese Millennials to feel the power of being original for themselves. Only then could it drive purchase. The agency leveraged the social media power in the hands of the target audience.  

The strategy: Inspire China’s Millennials to embrace their own originality, using Levi’s® as the vehicle to do so. 

Instead of telling Chinese targets what it meant to be original, the agency handed over complete reign of ad creation and inspired them to create their very own version of Levi’s® ‘We Are Original’ campaign through creative use of mobile. 

The idea: The Levi’s® Campaign that Levi’s® didn’t create. 


Truly original ads meant making every part of the ad original. From model to copy, even theme music, Levi’s® ads were no longer ads, but authentic expressions of individuals’ originality. 

Since music was a time when the targets felt most reflective and inspired by originality, OMD partnered with top mobile music app, Tencent’s QQ music. Harnessing Tencent’s QQ database, it selected Millennials’ favourite songs that best embodied Levis’ brand spirit, for example “Having Dreams”. On the mobile app, Millennials playing any of these songs unlocked Levi’s® “original” images – backdrops to Levi’s® campaign – in a media first. 

Even better - it gave targets the power to invent their original statement inspired by songs, to pair with their Levi’s® image. Then, they shared! Every message became an individual story told through WeChat: an expressive image, original statement and song, to get their friends inspired. 

Offline: The agency even invited China’s youths to star in their own Levi’s® poster, striking a pose to show their originality. Scanning a QR code on their mobile phones made these shareable socially with their own original message, just like on the QQ music app. 

Closing to purchase, outdoor ads called for metro passengers to interact using their mobiles and guided newly empowered young fans to Levi’s® stores. 


For Levi’s® to hold onto its status as China’s leading denim brand, it needed to connect with Millennials in a meaningful way, making them truly understand and experience the originality of Levi’s® brand. This creative use of mobile leveraged the social power of Chinese Millennials, integrating with offline to achieve the best Levi’s® experience and, most importantly, drive sales. 

Over 2.6 million Levi’s® ads were created by Millennials in just two weeks! Plus, an additional 2.9 million consumer engagements (likes, forwards, comments, shares) across the campaign.  

A campaign for Millennials created by Millennials, click-through was 50% higher than display-ads.

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