Reviving a Legend
The synergy between freestyling in the way one expresses themselves and in the way they wear Dickies jumped out at us and that’s how we stumbled across the fresh new Dickies payoff line, ‘Free your style’.
Reintroducing a 30 year old, well known and predominantly black South African brand to today’s diverse youth market is a challenge. When Creative Director, Xolisa Dyeshana and the team at Joe Public were briefed by clothing brand Dickies to do just that, the team immediately began exploring the activity young consumers would identify with the most.
Known originally as a ‘Pantsula’ brand, Dickies tasked Joe Public to take the brand out of iKasi (townships) and make it more relevant to today’s diverse youth – another objective was to make the advertising more clothing focused. “Our client felt that Dickies had lost the South African heritage and credibility that the brand had so enjoyed,” says Xolisa. “The essence of Dickies has always been about non-conformity, freedom of expression and uncompromising individuality.”
25 year-olds plus are very familiar with Dickies and have a great affinity with the brand, there is 100 percent awareness and entrenchment in that bracket of the black market. The brand is rated as one of the coolest brands in SA (Markinor/Sunday Times), but the challenge the team faced was speaking specifically to the youth market.
Joe Public’s Big Idea was to identify and approach positive role models and entertainers throughout the country, to act as brand ambassadors for Dickies. They recruited the likes of Tuks Singanga, H2O, DJ Monde, Reddy D and Azanian Flames. “It is a fact that youngsters look up to entertainers and most of SA’s entertainers have owned at least one pair of Dickies in their lifetime. Our selected artists joined us on a site trip, visited several Dickies stores and were treated to complimentary clothing so that they could see first hand how the brand had evolved since they last wore it. Thereafter, each had to conceptualise their own 25” freestyle (rap) telling us about their first and next pair of Dickies.”
Freestyling is now a part of the urban vernacular. This spontaneous, improvisational form of rap, using spoken word, is gaining increasing popularity locally and was identified as the perfect vehicle to capture the spirit of the brand.
“The synergy between freestyling in the way one expresses themselves and in the way they wear Dickies jumped out at us and that’s how we stumbled across the fresh new Dickies payoff line, ‘Free your style’.”
The main medium for this campaign was radio, supported by outdoor and instore point-of-sale. Stations chosen were funky, young and relevant – YFM and Good Hope FM to start off with, followed by a full-scale roll out to other regional stations. YFM really came to the party in Gauteng, providing loads of added value. Their studios were used to record all the radio spots for the campaign and Dickies became the official sponsor for their Rap Activity Jam – a regular feature on the station where aspiring Mcees come into studio and do battle each week live on air. For the 13 week duration of the sponsorship, the station ran a search for individuals who really knew how to free their style as voted by the listeners. The winners would have the opportunity to star in the next series of radio ads where South Africans would hear their stories about their first and next pair.
In addition, The Street Team from YFM, clad in Dickies gear, went out into malls, street bashes, university campuses and even stores in search of raw talent. Youngsters were asked to freestyle on the spot and these freestyles were then recorded as vox pops and played on air, during The Rap Activity Jam show.
At an instore level, all point-of-sale and merchandising material was recreated to echo the brands new, fresh positioning. Retail messages were communicated in rhymes and all collateral reflected the new ‘Free your style’ look and feel. Another important sales drive in the campaign was the creation of collectors cards. When customers purchased their first or next pair, they received a free collectors card of one of the Dickies celebrity ambassadors, complete with the lyrics to their freestyle and their autograph.
The campaign has been extremely successful to date, with the brand experiencing a surgence in interest from people who had once considered it old fashioned, particularly the youth. Perceptions about the brand have changed so much that Joe Public’s offices have been inundated with calls from artists begging to be part of the campaign. “Whilst we fully acknowledge that changing perceptions is no overnight task, I think the progress we’ve made thus far is remarkable and attests to the power of insightful advertising. I grew up wearing the brand,” says Xolisa. “I have a very good idea of how the Dickies market thinks and what they aspire to – which is why I think Joe Public’s campaign has really been entrenched to the right people, through the right medium in a way that truly resonates.”
Xolisa Dyeshana is Creative Director for below-the-line at Joe Public. He recently relocated to Johannesburg from FCB Cape Town where he worked on some of the country’s top brands, including Santam, Momentum, Media 24 and Distell. He has won awards both locally and internationally and he currently sits on the Loerie Awards judging panel as well as the Marketing Mix sales promotion advisory panel.