Making the Case for Video with Levi's

Digital video is at the top of everyone's marketing list. The rising star engages consumers, and more importantly, converts them into customers.

When I was a teenager, I spent most of my free time at the mall. My favorite was the Town Center in Boca Raton. It was large, upscale, and most importantly, climate controlled.

My friends and I would flock to Town Center, one of the few condoned meetup locations, to join the adolescent fauna in the ritualistic corridor parade – to be seen and see others. It was serious business, but we occasionally absented ourselves to immerse in the excitement of our favorite stores. Each store had its own curated blend of music, fashion, and personality.  

The audio, visual, and social triptych was immediately levitating. I fluttered around the stores feeling fabrics and pointing out items for myself and others.

Now in my professional thirties, if I go to a store and the ambience is well designed, that magical feeling of lightness resurfaces.  When that happens, I’m more likely to purchase something.  But, who has the time to go to the store anymore?

Not me. That’s why I was so intrigued when I discovered a way to tap into this extraordinary feeling online. The revelation happened while I was working on a project for Levi’s. Video as a marketing tool had really taken off, and my assignment was to explore ways in which the mass retailer could leverage this tool across their wholesale accounts - where the jeans pioneer makes the bulk of its revenue.

As part of my research, I looked at how fashion brands were employing video. There were many different approaches to video in use - interactive, product, cinematographic, and editorial to name a few.  

For example Cartier has an epic 3.3 minute video journey of a leopard traversing an imaginary world of bejeweled encounters. It’s stunning, as it should be. It took two years and $5.3 million to produce. Fellow luxury player, Gucci has a true-to-brand, 1.5 minute ultra sexy shoppable short.  The segment highlights its buy-now collection pieces with a clickable overlay of the brand’s trademark double G.

Viewing all these videos, I realized there is some interplay with music, motion, and brand. When that happened, I found that my momentary lightness feeling was induced.

Let’s face it - video, done well, is engaging. That’s one reason marketers love it.  Another reason marketers glorify video is because of the way Google ranks it. Video, like news, is a separate category which means it’s a way for brands to show up on the first page of search results without having to pay.

But, there’s yet another reason video is at the top of the popularity pole - it’s a social medium. Unlike still images, video tells a complete story, making it not only more appealing to consume but also easier to pass on to others because there is no explanation required. In fact, Pew Research Center, a leading consumer research organization, found a direct correlation between the growth of social media and that of online video.

In today’s accelerated culture, easy matters.

And there is one category of video content that makes shopping easier – product videos.

Product videos provide more context around a specific item of interest. These videos are often found on the product detail page.  As bandwidth and processing speeds have improved, brands have started employing product videos in different ways and locations.

Retailers like Saks.com, use short clips displaying the product on a model in inline search. If you go to Saks.com and browse by category – say tops, you’ll notice a play button on the bottom left of each item listed. Upon clicking on that button for a Phillip Lim sheer-back tee, you’ll see a model showing how it moves as she strolls up and down a short runway. This gives consumers a sense of how products look being worn. No extra clicks required.

Zappos.com is another pioneer in product videos. If you haven’t already seen Zappos’ product videos, here’s what happens. It starts with a Zappos employee detailing the key attributes of the product, then follows with a view of the shoes being worn. All this is packed into a clip lasting little over a minute and replete with pulsating music.  

The key elements that make this video successful are the same that occur in-store - you get into the vibe with auditory and visual stimulation, see something that catches your eye, talk to a salesperson, then try on the shoes, and finally stroll over to the knee-high mirror to get another perspective. What’s more, the videos are gender specific - for example, the women prance in the mirror mimicking footage while the men just complete a carefully slow turn.

More than merely resonating, Zappos’ product videos cause consumers to buy more and return less. A senior member of  Zappos’ video and photo team reported an increase in conversions with the added benefit of a decrease in returns. The lift in conversions alone was reportedly upwards of 20%.

For this project with Levi’s, product video content was the obvious choice. Next up, the team and I devised two great concepts along with actionable plans and budgets. The driving idea -  bring a sense of lightness to all those stock keeping units.