Campaign Trail: Dickies spotlights DIY spirit and its power to inspire during pandemic

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In the absence of frequent human interaction during the pandemic, many people are embracing crafting, baking and other creative activities to soothe their stress and fill their time. Workwear brand Dickies seized on this do-it-yourself spirit to launch its first global marketing campaign, which highlights the creativity of 10 makers across industries and the globe.

The “United by Inspiration, United by Dickies” effort was made by and for the creator community during an era of isolation caused by the health crisis. Digital, social, connected TV and custom content personifies makers via stills, six- and 15-second spots, letting the campaign’s theme center on sharing inspiration and championing the dignity of work.

Shifting gears from the campaign they had planned for 2020, Dickies and creative agency Sid Lee returned to the simple reality that homebound consumers were relying on online content to connect with one another and cope through a difficult year, according to Kathy Hines, Dickies’ vice president of global marketing.

“People started going back to the fundamentals and creating for the joy and passion of it, and they turned to digital channels to get inspired,” she said. “Instead of viewing digital content consumption as a negative, which it can be, we thought about the good that’s coming from that.

“We wanted to make sure the content we created held a mirror to the reality that despite being locked away at home, people are still learning and growing from each other.”

‘Making doesn’t discriminate’

Prior to the pandemic’s onset this spring, the campaign was set to be a content extension around Dickies’ “Yours to Make” initiative from 2019. The brand and its agency quickly pivoted to reflect the new truth of homebound consumers’ everyday lives.

“We had to get solution-focused first figuring out logistics, and then get courageous,” Hines said.

The campaign’s ode to makers and creators was formed by splicing together footage that each of the 10 people shot themselves, a move made out of necessity due to pandemic-related studio closures, but also one that could highlight the maker community’s resourcefulness and tenacity. After finding a diverse mix of artisans from around the globe to represent the brand, the 10 selected people — including a farmer, barber, sculptor and dancer — were guided and directed through a Zoom video chat. Each of the featured makers wears the brand’s classic Eisenhower jacket, a mainstay Dickies offering since the 1940s, to emphasize its reputation as a reliable choice for workers of the world.

Putting content production in the hands of makers allowed Dickies’ an opportunity to strike a stronger impact within the creator community it serves.

“They are telling their stories on our behalf. We’re not telling them what to do, so the videos don’t feel overly produced,” Hines said. “We were then able to take that beautiful, honest, authentic content that literally came from the hands of our makers and put some creative around it to make it cohesive and tell our narrative of inspiration and dignity of work.”

That concept of leveraging footage created by the brand’s customers pulls from the popular marketing tactic of user-generated content. It often allows fans to connect more deeply with a brand and is typically perceived as more authentic than highly produced content coming directly from the marketing team. One key difference, however, is that Dickies approached the 10 makers with a narrative in mind around communicating the world’s shared reality during the pandemic, according to Hines.

“We had a clear story, then we engaged 10 people who believed and loved that story,” she said. “This had the added complexity that [user-generated content] doesn’t always have.”

Dickies set out to select a mix of makers from around the globe, balancing age, gender and craft that ranges from blue-collar workers to more creative artisans, according to Hines.

“Making doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “The act of making and creating is universal, and it’s something that appeals to all.”

“It’s about being human more than anything.”

Kathy Hines

Dickies, vice president of global marketing

Finding a unique bunch to appear in the campaign was designed to represent the brand’s broad target audience, which Hines describes as inclusive and not bound to strict demographics traditionally thought of when classifying a target audience.

“This is for anyone who felt a connection to the idea of being united by inspiration and what making looks like globally. More than anything, we wanted to hold a mirror to society and show and reach that broad consumer base.”

Broadening its workwear core

Dickies’ focus on makers began in 2018 after a long history of homing in on workwear. The brand expanded its definition to include a more diverse community of craftspeople, especially as its workwear offerings swelled in popularity among fashion icons and celebrities. In 2019, Dickies illuminated everyday artisans to celebrate their crafts. This year’s campaign builds on that effort, and first showcased frontline workers at the pandemic’s onset, followed by makers in the LGBT community during Pride month and Black-owned businesses amid protests this spring and summer. Dickies is extending its campaign through October to bring visibility to Hispanic-owned businesses.

“We want to ensure that whatever we do, we create an emotional tie with consumers in ways that show we really do believe in shining a light on others and helping them tell their stories,” Hines said. “It’s about being human more than anything.”

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