At a time when manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are declining drastically and iconic domestic brands like Chrysler have been struggling to survive, many Americans are anxious about the economic realities of a post-recession era, a digital age and a flatter world. With Apple and Google as today’s venerated brands, the skilled blue-collar worker has clearly lost his place at the heart of the economy.
Using slogans like “Everybody’s work is equally important,” Levi’s is tapping into this sentiment and adding an optimistic spin. A press release cites “a new generation of ‘real workers’ … who see challenges around them and are inspired to drive positive, meaningful change.” Ads focus on the company’s donations to the struggling Rust Belt town of Braddock, Pa., and feature its citizens. But some commenters on YouTube and elsewhere gripe that Levi’s isn’t actually bringing jobs to the town and its clothes aren’t domestically produced.
By contrast, a campaign from Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee is a paean to the idea of “made in America.” A voiceover talks about a nation of builders and craftsmen—“men and women for whom straight stitches and clean welds were matters of personal pride”—as we see images of America’s proud industrial past. Viewers are reassured that “This was once a country where people made things, beautiful things. And so it is again.” (Cue the latest Grand Cherokee.) The tagline: “The things we make, make us.” This campaign seems more likely to connect than Levi’s pitch, which seems to beg the question of where blue-collar hope will come from, at least for towns beyond Braddock.