I decided to start off my "Is this PR?" presentations with Levi's Go Forth campaign because 1. I, personally, think it is an awesome campaign and 2. I am writing an original criticism on it for another communication class!
To give a basic overview of the campaign, I'll start by explaining where the title "Go Forth" came from. As the narrative goes, it stands for Grayson Ozias IV, a family friend of Levi Strauss' nephew, who went exploring one day in the West (back when it was uncharted territory) and disappeared with $100,000. The company found his treasure (using wax cylinders he left behind). Now they are creating a virtual treasure hunt that ends with one person being able to do a real treasure hunt and find Ozias' fortune. "Go Forth" also connotes the freedom and revolution that Levi's is trying to create with this campaign. In addition to the "treasure hunt," they also have print advertisements and commercials which feature Walt Whitman poems like "America" and "Pioneers! O'Pioneers!" The entire campaign is trying to take people back to the pioneering age of America, when Levi's was started. Levi's uses other ideas like "The New Declaration" where they invite people to rewrite the Constitution or write their own.
As I stated before, I really like the campaign. However, among others, it has had mixed receptions. And I understand the thoughts of those who oppose it. There have been some blogs that think this campaign is beautiful yet ultimately will not reach its goal of selling jeans but rather alienate postmodern consumers. If you read the comments though, not everyone agrees with this. Others think the use of Walt Whitman poems is an interesting choice. Using poetry to promote a company is controversial because it is using art (something usually seen as not consumerist) to sell something; however, as others note, it's getting people to discover poetry and, really, Walt Whitman wrote reviews for his own poetry so it is kind of fitting that he would be used to promote jeans. I think Rick Mathieson does a good job at summing up the opposing views towards the campaign in his article. To answer some of the questions he poses, yes I do think this can "reset the brand" for today's generation. Just because it is obviously advertising jeans doesn't not mean it is trying to "brainwash" today's generation. It's true; people are pessimistic these days and, while they are not going to believe that buying jeans will change the world, the message Levi's could become associated with through this campaign, could.
In the end, I believe this campaign is good and I believe this campaign is PR. It is striking up conversations about Levi's and it is using social media to the fullest. The interactive element of this campaign puts it in this century, while the message brings back the past. This is a response to their recent financial failures to compete with designer brands, like Sevens and True Religion. Levi's listened to what their publics were saying and realized they could not compete in the same arena as designer brands so they decided to go an alternative route, back to their roots.
That said, I would love to hear other opinions about this campaign because, as I have seen, the views towards the Go Forth campaign have been quite varied.