For the launch of its 2013 cycling line of clothes Commuter, Levi’s partnered with digital creative agency Instrument to craft a multi-channel campaign focusing on storytelling. We sat down with Jake Szymanski, Strategist at Instrument, to learn more about the campaign.

The story

Historically, Levi’s had been promoting its Commuter collection through model photos, on their website and promotional clips. But this year, the denim and apparel brand decided to seize the opportunity to innovate with new and diverse content forms. In order to do so, Instrument conceived and managed a partnership between Levi’s and VSCO, creators of the VSCO Cam photo-editing app that has been gaining popularity throughout 2013. The partnership with VSCO and their network of photographers resulted in very high level of engagement with the campaign.

A Campaign with a mobile twist

Levi’s wanted to elevate the Commuter collection from its focus on the core cycling community to the broader work force of today; a group Instrument and Levi’s refer to as The Creative Class. Since the collection is designed for young creatives and makers who commute by bike regardless of the weather or hour of day, mobile-first social networks stood out as the logical outlet to extend the campaign. To support the story with more detail, Instrument created a series of documentary-style films for the Levi’s YouTube channel.

Furthermore, with its young and active community, Instagram was an excellent fit for the bike-themed campaign. Instrument gave posts on Instagram a higher priority than Facebook and Twitter, as engagement rate was higher.

Instrument, VSCO and Levi’s collaborated to create a collection of authentic photo stories with photographers across America’s major cycling cities. The creativity and community VSCO brought to the campaign was a major factor in the success of the content. VSCO created the first custom, branded Preset Pack for Levi’s Commuter and facilitated the collaboration with their network of mobile photographers.
Each photographer captured and shared their own Commuter photo stories; both on their Instagram account and VSCO Grid. VSCO then curated a custom Levi’s Grid that showcased stories from collaborating photographers in each city and the best submissions from consumers participating with the campaign.

vsco levis commuter grid

Putting participants first

To favor the submission of original and creative images, Instrument only gave loose guidelines to the 20 photographers, and didn’t moderate their submissions.

For each city, a collection of photos from the 2 to 4 photographers was then reposted to Levi’s official Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds. At first, only the most engaging posts were chosen, but soon enough, Instrument and Levi’s observed patterns on the kinds of posts that resonated best with the brand’s audience and broadened the criteria.

The brand then invited its fans to join the pro photographers in sharing photos of their commute by using both hashtags #VSCOcam and #commuter. Such a combination made relevant content easily searchable by community managers, who then liked and commented on the photos.

While it was never announced or incentivized, the authors with the best submissions received a gift card, as a way for Levi’s to show appreciation for their work.

Measuring the impact on Instagram

Historically, Levi’s has tracked Engagement Rate across all of their social media channels as a leading KPI. Measuring metrics on Instagram was no different. Along with Engagement Rate, Instrument and Levi’s measured Total Engagements, audience growth and potential impressions to better appreciate the campaign’s impact.

Total Engagements (Likes + Comments on a post) is the number one metric that managers look at, as they’re often used to tracking it for their brand account. But as Szymanski points out, participants to a campaign have varying numbers of followers, which directly impacts the total engagements they’ll receive. For this reason, he highlighted the importance of measuring Engagement Rate (total engagement / author’s following) to assess the posts’ inherent quality.

Levi’s Commuter: Key Figures

  • @levis saw a 22% increase in average engagement rate compared to last years’ campaign
  • @levis received 240k total engagements
  • 1.4k photos tagged #VSCOcam #commuter on Instagram
  • 330k total engagements on posts mentioning #VSCOcam #commuter

.@levis increased its average engagement rate on Instagram by 22% with the #Commuter campaign, learn how:

— Nitrogram (@nitrogram) November 15, 2013

Levi’s Commuter: Key Takeaways

  • A branded campaign, but not overbranded
  • Lower the barriers to entry (Levi’s fans could join the campaign by downloading the VSCO Cam app with the upside of trying out an exclusive Preset Pack)
  • Have _some_ guidelines: the goal was to re-use posts on the official feed, so they had to fit the brand’s image…
  • But Give fans creative freedom: Even with guidelines, there should be room for creativity
  • Track Instagram metrics (Engagement Rate puts all participants on leveled playing field)
  • Give back to your fans (By sending gift cards and thank you notes, Levi’s showed its appreciation for the participants’ work)

What do you think about this campaign? Did you participate in sending in photos? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks to Jake and Randall for taking the time to answer our questions.

This campaign is featured as a case study in our Guide to Instagram for Business.