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Guess Inc.'s Philanthropic Marketing Push

The company is parlaying its denim heritage into an ambitious campaign to prevent sexual violence.

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DENIM FOR A CAUSE: Guess Inc. is parlaying its denim heritage into an ambitious campaign to prevent sexual violence. Launched on Monday and leading to Denim Day on April 23, when activists plan to wear jeans to raise awareness about sexual assault, the Los Angeles company is integrating its three retail brands — Guess, G by Guess and Guess Factory — into a singular marketing initiative for the first time. More than 400 stores in the U.S. and Canada are unveiling window displays, signs and denim pins worn by staff with messages like “my jeans protest violence.”

“Because the message is so rooted in denim, so true to our heritage, when we heard about Denim Day it felt impossible for us not to participate in a bigger way,” said Amber Tarshis, Guess’ senior vice president of North American marketing.

Besides tapping into its customer e-mail list and social media accounts to spread the word, Guess is planning to run print public service announcements in the May books of Vanity Fair, Teen Vogue and Lucky magazine. PSAs also will hit the Internet, through WhoWhatWear.com, Upworthy.com, V Magazine’s Web site, a Teen Vogue-sponsored newsletter and an e-mail blast from Lucky.

This is the largest philanthropic marketing effort in Guess’ 33-year history. Tarshis said it is pivotal today for fashion brands to be both progressive and charitable. “Our customer wants to make a difference and wants to get involved,” she said. “They’re looking at companies to be more philanthropic and more socially and environmentally responsible. The consumer demand and the corporate interest for making a difference are coming together like never before.”

Denim Day originated in 1997 after an Italian court overturned a rape conviction because the judges felt that, since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans and given consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Peace Over Violence, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, sponsors Denim Day in the U.S. As part of the promotion, the Guess Foundation is contributing $100,000 to Peace Over Violence to help fund its crisis hotline, teen dating programs and other activities.

Tarshis said the company also is involving its workforce of 9,200 people and carrying the message north of the border to Canada, where Peace Over Violence has never sponsored Denim Day. It’s also hosting Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Police Chief Charlie Beck and musician Aloe Blacc to a press conference at its downtown L.A. headquarters on Denim Day. “That’s the real value: the reach,” she said.

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