Over three decades ago, a 16-year-old Brooke Shields sparked controversy with an advertisement where she uttered, “Wanna know what gets between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” Ever since then, the American fashion brand has been a top marketer. In the digital era, this translates into successful influencer campaigns.
The rise of #mycalvins hype
Have you seen Justin Bieber in his CK underwear? If so, you are one of the millions exposed to the #mycalvins hype. The campaign is ongoing and now markets the company’s denim too, but in its debut in 2014, Justin Bieber and Dutch model Lara Stone exclusively promoted Calvin Klein’s underwear line.
The two celebrities starred in a black and white video with no text until the end shot, where #mycalvins appeared onscreen. The ad was released on YouTube and has since accumulated over 9.6 million views. What is more remarkable than the attention gained is the user-generated social media content which followed.
After the first wave
The #mycalvins hashtag incorporated into the campaign prompted high audience engagement and generated more than 1.6 million interactions within the first 48 hours after the launch.
While Calvin Klein has paid some 600 influencers to take part in the campaign, the flow-on effect has been so massive that users who were not even brand ambassadors started posting pictures of themselves in their CK sports bras and underwear sets. Calvin Klein met that positive reaction with another creative idea, starting a dedicated micro-website where the brand recognized the best user-generated content.
Following the launch of the #mycalvins campaign with Bieber, Calvin Klein continued to build on its success. In 2016, the company incorporated all of its brands in the ads and partnered with a number of musicians, models, and social media influencers, using the phrase, “I ____ in #mycalvins.” Kendal Jenner, Kate Moss, Bella Hadid, Zoe Kravitz, and other celeb endorsers shared what they like to do in their Calvins. The rest of the world was also invited to fill in the blank.
In 2017, Calvin Klein expanded the campaign with the launch of “Our Family. #mycalvins” series of videos and pictures interpreting the term “family.” Different chapters of the campaign — “Our Youth,” “Our Music,” “Our Music,” and “Our Crew” — tapped siblings and It-models Kaia and Presley Gerber, Solange Knowles along with a cast of singer-songwriters, hip-hop collective A$AP Mob, and the Kardashians clan.
“For the first time, the brand is embracing a digital-first, socially powered mindset in communicating the evolution of the globally successful #MYCALVINS campaign originally launched in 2014. The #MYCALVINS campaign leverages influencers’ and existing consumer behavior to express themselves and maximizes the cultural ‘selfie’ and viral image-sharing phenomenon,” Calvin Klein said in a press release at the time, shedding some light on its advertising rationale.
At the beginning of 2019, Calvin Klein launched its latest campaign, “I Speak My Truth #mycalvins.” It features Bella Hadid, Kendal Jenner, A$AP Rocky, Noah Centineo, and Billie Eilish, among others. In a series of videos, each star shares their personal truths through emotional videos. As described by the brand, the new effort “presents today’s most influential voices telling their own stories, in their own words – and invites others around the world to do the same.”
Why Instagram? Why Justin Bieber?
Calvin Klein is undeniably harnessing the power of social media’s top influencers, but would the buzz have started if Bieber had not been the face of the original #mycalvins campaign?
The design house made a thoughtful decision, choosing a singer and teen idol pre-loaded with over 150 million followers across his social platforms. Besides, Bieber has admitted being a fan of the brand, deliberately showing his CK underwear in pictures in hopes of catching the company’s eye.
On top of that, Bieber was ranked by Twitter as the most tweeted about musical artist of 2014. However, Calvin Klein used Instagram as its main distribution channel due to the visual format of the campaign’s content and its appeal to the company’s target audience – people aged 18 to 29.
Campaign results and impact
The #mycalvins campaign has dramatically increased Calvin Klein’s growth on social platforms. According to retail and shopping website Racked, the company’s Facebook has added 2.2 million followers, Instagram 1.8 million, and Twitter 1 million in the year following the February 2014 launch alone.
There are currently over 745,000 images on Instagram with the tag #mycalvins. These authentic posts endorsing the brand are an extremely powerful way to interact with people, far more effective than the more obviously paid posts or printed ads. The latter is already a thing of the past, in fact.
Earlier this year, Calvin Klein announced it had ditched this traditional means of advertisement, taking instead a “digital-first, socially amplified model” with a strong video element.