Levi Strauss Shows How to Go Forth, Brings Clout to HIV/AIDS Battle

by Sheila Shayon

The Levi's brand fall campaign suggests getting dressed is an empowering action, continuing its message for the fourth year of “Go Forth,” and adding, “This is a pair of Levi’s.” 
The 2012 fall/winter "Go Forth" campaign pitches 18 to 34 year-olds on donning their daily armor to take on the world every day: “This is a pair of Levi’s, buttons and rivets and pockets and cuffs, and the thread that holds it together.”
The language is a call to action: “You follow your heart, follow the leader, you’re the leader. Are you joking, are you breaking, are you shaking? You’re the next living leader of the world. You’re a kid. Holding onto the thread. That holds it together. This is a pair of Levi’s.” Cue Twitter hashtag, “#GoForth.” And Levi's own call to action, tying a thread to its corporate commitment to take a stance on HIV/AIDS.
“From a creative approach, we wanted to be culturally relevant while also making the product more central to the brand narrative,” comments Len Peltier, global VP of creative for Levi’s on the evolution of Go Forth from a local (US) to global platform. “Our intent is to disrupt what people think they know about the Levi’s brand and redefine that with unexpected product stories and a more refined styling point of view.”
The brand is walking its talk and following its heart by expanding its commitment to one of the key pillars of its corporate citizenship platform: leveraging its clout with youths in the battle against HIV/AIDS with cause marketing and local activations.
Levi Strauss’ leadership position in the issue began in 1982 when then-CEO Robert Haas stood shoulder-to-shoulder with employee volunteers at company headquarters in San Francisco to distribute information about HIV/AIDS, courageous when fear and lack of information were rampant. Their first AIDS Memorial Quilt panel was crafted in 1988. 
This year, the company asked employees in the US, Canada, Mexico and Brazil what the end of AIDS would mean to them, and their answers now grace the second AIDS Memorial Quilt panel on display at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., revealed during the recent International AIDS Conference. The panel is made from recycled Levi’s jeans and denim. 
Both AIDS Memorial Quilt panels will travel to retail stores and offices to honor employees involved in the work, returning to headquarters in San Francisco for World AIDS Day on December 1st.

The iconic blue jeans brand is assisting the U.S. Administration in developing a national HIV/AIDS strategy, a partnership that kicked off in 2006 with a Clinton Global Initiative commitment and resulting in an HIV/AIDS treatment and care model available to other global apparel companies to replicate or adopt.
Levi Strauss joined a partnership with UNAIDS, GBC Health, and others in a CEO-led pledge calling on 46 countries to lift travel restrictions imposed on those with HIV/AIDS and President and CEO, Chip Bergh, was the first CEO to sign. Chief executives from from Aetna, Coca-Cola, Gilead Sciences, H&M, Johnson & Johnson, Kenneth Cole, the NBA, and Virgin Airlines have all joined this “call to action.” 
Kamon Uppakaew, education and advocacy director of Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG), was recently awarded The Levi Strauss & Co. Pioneer Award for his fight for taking a stand against discrimination by promoting equal rights for those living with HIV/AIDS, a condition he shares first-hand.
During his tenure as chairman of Thailand’s National Network of Positive People, Kamon instituted free HIV treatment in Thailand, pushed for compulsory licensing of life-saving HIV treatment, and elevated Thailand to the first country in Asia to achieve the highest attainable standard of healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Since 2007, the Levi Strauss Foundation has invested in Alliance Ukraine and soccer stadiums in Kyiv and Kharkiv now sport mobile HIV/AIDS clinics set-up for the Euro 2012 games. Eastern Europe has the most rapidly expanding HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world with over 25,000 new cases annually in the Ukraine alone.
The Alliance also organized a "Street Stars" mini-soccer tournament in Kiev’s Euro 2012 "European Village,” targeting homeless and underserved children, with funding from the Levi Strauss Foundation.
Go Forth, take a stand and make a difference, indeed.

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