By  on May 1, 2012

Barry Miguel and David Lipman required no introductions when they began working together on a plan to create a new breakthrough marketing concept for Seven For All Mankind last year.

Miguel, named president of Seven last year, had used the services of Lipman’s New York marketing agency during his tenure at Ermenegildo Zegna. Lipman, chairman and chief creative officer of the New York-based firm which bears his surname, was familiar not only with Miguel but, having done research for Seven earlier in its existence, with the brand and its California heritage.

The challenge was reintroducing the consumer to the brand. “Seven was one of the original premium denim brands and [co-founder] Peter Koral certainly left us with a rich heritage,” Miguel told audience during a conversation moderated by WWD news director Lisa Lockwood. “At the same time, we live in a world of contemporary fashion and being 12 years old within that contemporary fashion world, you’re old. There are always going to be new players coming into the space and it’s really about how you stay relevant and compelling to your consumer.”

Lipman not only had an idea, but an additional motivation: “I was so tired of looking at another picture of another person posing.”

He thought he had the right person to execute his idea, too, in actor and modern-day renaissance man James Franco. The actor’s creative inspiration was a rather wild party he’d attended that stretched from the early evening until 5 in the morning and “from the Beverly Hills Hotel to the canyons of Malibu” and that he thought captured “the creative, free spirit of California” in a way that would resonate with consumers and change the way they perceived Seven.

“I need you to be disruptive,” Lipman recalled Miguel telling him, “but I need to make a brand statement. We need the brand to come to life.”

Lipman and Franco embarked on a series of shoots designed to produce 10 “episodic films” to run on Seven’s own YouTube channel and also as a series of art-house films ranging in length from 40 minutes to 3 hours and 45 minutes. Woven into the story line, despite a general lack of dialogue, is the matter of who bears responsibility for the 1981 death of Natalie Wood.

Lipman, who was inspired as a young man by the Brooke Shields ads for Calvin Klein Jeans, faults the fashion industry with trying to “force” messages on consumers when it turns to social media and said he was intent on “avoiding a monologue” with the audience.

“We try too often to do it that way and we get 40,000 views,” he said. “Big deal….We’re approaching 2 million views [on the Seven channel] at this point….And I guarantee we’ll be at 5 million views when this thing is over for this season.”

He expects 10 million YouTube views or more by the end of the year. The channel currently has more than 1,300 subscribers and is approaching 1.7 million views.

To Miguel, the initiative met his standard for something “game-changing,” bringing to life his new vision for the brand. As to the risk, “as a leader and a brand builder, you need to make the call. Yes, it’s risky.”

But he’s gotten good feedback in the brand’s performance. “We had a great first quarter,” Miguel said, just days before parent VF Corp. reported that the brand’s first-quarter revenues rose 18 percent.

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