A Global Brand Reinvention Campaign for Levi’s -
one of the world’s most enduring clothing brands.
Bongster as Strategist, Marketer and Staunch Advocate
The Challenging Change
Levi’s is a brand steeped in history and I say this in the most literal sense, as I am a hardcore Levi’s fan. In my teenage years, owning an ORIGINAL Levi's 501 is one of my biggest aspirations. It was cool, it was desirable, and it was also priced way above my regular student clothing allowance. At the age of 18, thanks to countless hours of working as a bank teller, I finally managed to afford my first pair. And that was the beginning of an enduring love affair with the brand.
In 2004, as a Junior Account Manager at OgilvyOne Singapore, I was tasked to look after the Levi's Singapore account. Naturally, I welcomed this. I had no idea of the intensity that was waiting for me. I just felt blessed and thought to myself.
“Yes! I can wear my only pair of 501 to see our client tomorrow”.
In 6 years, the account grew across the Asia Pacific region. Financially and creatively, it became one of my top 3 accounts. The agency churned one award-winning campaign after another. But, as Barbra Streisand once sung, some good things never last. Due to burnout, my dazzling agency career took a slight twist of fate. I had to leave the agency of my dreams, my team, and what I believed to be my calling.
I was in the middle of a self-imposed “Eat, Pray, Love” episode (which is mostly meditating and contemplating on what to do next), when I received THE call. The regional lead client of Levi's Asia Pacific had found out about my personal plan (or the lack of it) after the official announcement was made.
“Get your a-s to our office, we've created a role for you,” she said without mincing words.
“You are one of the reasons why I left…” I replied.
“Maybe it won’t be the same if you and I are sitting on the same side of the table? Maybe you will even like me?”
Puzzled, excited and astonished, I went back to Singapore and my started my career with Levi's Asia Pacific. It was one of my most transformative career moves. I remember thinking "Agencies, this is the time, revenge at last!" Bongster the client was born, and my claws were ready. Yet, on the first meeting with the junior executive from the creative agency, I recognised something as she carefully explained to me that the headline was approved internally and can't be altered.
I recognised the fear in her eyes. It’s the same one I had many times in my 15-year agency career. I knew about the layers of internal protocols and understood that there are Gods that needed to be followed. I scrapped my vengeance plot and told her that I will contact the right person instead. By then I knew that learning the proper channel is also a necessary skill to survive and thrive in the creative industry.
At Levi’s, I was fortunate enough to be a part of many global innovative campaigns like the Levi's Curve ID for Women. But the highlight of my 2-year tenure was the global brand reinvention campaign called Levi's GO FORTH, a campaign that entailed 20 months of relentless research, market analysis, zombie-hour conference calls (e.g. “Bong, we would like to hear Asia’s strategy to deploy this campaign… Oh it’s 2:30AM in Singapore right now… Anyway, can you input your recommendation on Row 36, Column G?”).
Like any powerful creation, giving birth to this campaign was tough. But the work, the message, and the profound meaning behind it "revamped" my career in countless ways. All around the region, I delivered key note speeches, graced fashion runways, and collaborated with hundreds of like-minded individuals. I was no longer a teenager wanting the jeans of the moment or the clueless young account executive. I became an advocate for following one’s destiny and never backing down even in the face of adversary. And that change, be it a result of burnout or an instant flash of inspiration, must always be carried out with one powerful mindset – GO FORTH.