We are engaged in the battle for equal rights on many fronts: racial, gender, sexual and economic. And our efforts to bring about equality for all extend well beyond our own workplaces, where we treasure the diverse backgrounds and talents of our employees. Through our public policy advocacy our media and advertising presence, and our work in the community, we aim to influence how people around the world perceive and treat others.
Using the Power of Marketing to Influence How People See the World
Marketing can be a powerful tool for changing perceptions and behavior. At Levi Strauss & Co., we have not shied away from using marketing to advance our vision of a more diverse and equitable society. For example, the U.S. Levi’s® brand created a bold diversity marketing campaign in 2008, producing a gay-themed television advertisement and placing it on mainstream cable media outlets. The ad, “Change,” earned praise in the advertising world and with the target audience, and won multiple awards including the coveted GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Award for best advertising.
The Levi’s® brand also leveraged the NBA Rookie Draft to create a marketing program appealing urban consumers. In addition to outfitting the rookie players in Levi’s® jeans and creating a 16-page advertorial feature for Dime magazine, the brand developed a series of popular online video diaries for rookie Jerryd Bayless that followed the player from packing up his dorm room to draft day.
Expanding the Frontiers of Opportunity
While many people are aware of the income divide between men and women and between people of different races and ethnic backgrounds, the fact is that asset inequality dwarfs income inequality worldwide. In the United States, for example, for every one dollar in net worth of a household headed by a male, a female-headed household has less than 40 cents. For every one dollar in net worth of a household headed by a white adult, a minority-headed household has about six cents.
Asset building is a new field that seeks fresh solutions to intergenerational poverty. While most economic development approaches focus on income generation, asset building focuses on public policies and programs that enable low-income working people to accumulate assets that compound in value over time. In this arena, as in many others, Levi Strauss & Co., along with the Levi Strauss Foundation, is a pioneer. In 1997, ours was the first corporate foundation to support a groundbreaking pilot called the American Dream Demonstration (a collaboration between the Center for Enterprise Development and the Center for Social Development). It was the first large-scale test of Individual Development Accounts—matched savings accounts for the working poor devoted to purchasing a home, paying for college or skills training, and starting a small business.
The findings of the five-year American Dream Demonstration have powerfully influenced policies and programs in the United States—and more recently, abroad. Above all, it yielded two groundbreaking insights: