Hispanic TV Summit: Levi's Pioneering Spirit Shaped Market Entry

In reaching out to the young, bicultural Hispanic community, Levi Strauss & Co. has adapted a pioneering spirit in more ways than one.

Speaking during her opening keynote at the eight annual Hispanic Television Summit here Wednesday, Diane Jones Lowrey, director of diversity marketing and operations, said the jeans giant incorporated its pioneering corporate ethos, not only as "a rallying cry, but a north star," into developing its strategies to market to this target group.

Working with Dallas-based agency Dieste, Levi's initiative took shape through such general connotations for pioneer as "rugged," "risk-taking" and "free-thinking," flanked by Latino precepts that the company "needed to be first and do something in the Hispanic community" in order to shape the right creative messaging therein. This coincided with Levi's plan to evince its brand spirit via the use of "music, design, style and fashion," according to Jones Lowrey.

The result: Levi elected to move beyond the traditional TV paths of becoming a show sponsor and/or buying 30-second spots Hispanic broadcast networks. Instead, Levi decided to tap cable's narrowcasting capabilities to reach its young, on-the-move target group, which Jones Lowrey conceded the company "had not done a good job of speaking to" before.
"Those were not break-through, not pioneering enough," Jones Lowrey said, referring to the historical TV reach methods. "Levi is new to this market, so we wanted to integrate our products authentically, genuinely and organically," aiming at the nation's fastest-growing market audience of "young, innovative Hispanic progressives."

The result, following a request for proposal, was a 10-part series on Discovery en Espanol, Norte A Sur: Una Ruta, 5 Experiencias. The reality show focuses on five young American Latinos traveling from Alaska to Argentina, who engage in a journey of self-discovery through projects and "real work" in each community they stop at along their 10-city trek through the Americas.

The first installment of the series bowed on Saturday Sept. 25 at 9:30 p.m., with favorable initial Nielsen returns: Norte a Sur was the No. 2 show on Spanish cable among persons 18 to 34 that night, according to Jones Lowrey.

But Levi's pioneering process extended well beyond the original small screen. Playing into young bicultural Hispanics' affinity for diversified media as opposed to merely TV as the dominant messaging mechanism, Dieste president Aldo Quevedo said the client touched off a "360-synergistic" approach, one tying together the digital realm that provides consumers with access to and interaction with cast members. To that end, casting considerations included the level of followers the participants had in the worlds of Twitter and other social arenas.

Organized by the various locations on the trip, the elements include: an iPhone application for the series' travelers in which they were able to post pictures, content and music from their destinations; links between Facebook and a dedicated microsite, http://norteasur5enruta.com/; product giveaway questions; and a component showcasing the cast's choices of Levis clothing.

All of the social networking aspects aside, Levi's dedicated launch into this community still needed to relate back to the brand at retail in what Quevedo labeled "the third leg of the stool. And this week, we have a heavy promotion with a retailer," he said.