Defy’s anniversary ads for Boyds strike the perfect balance between past and future

How do you make a business founded in 1938 relevant today? Defy’s 85th birthday ads for luxury retailer Boyds provide a shining example.

Anniversaries are a tricky business. On the one hand, you want to celebrate that a brand or company has been in business for several decades or even centuries. On the other hand, you don’t want people to think you’re old hat.

Striking that balance is one of the biggest challenges facing advertisers, but it can be done. Just ask Guinness, which manages to project both authenticity from its grand age and a sense of contemporary cool.

A more recent example of this dynamic in motion can be seen in “Boyds. For Life”, an 85th anniversary campaign for the iconic luxury retailer.

Brief and concept

Based in Philadelphia, Boyds has been dressing generations of professionals and athletes for nearly a decade. To celebrate its 85th anniversary, it approached Defy, an independent Philadelphia-based marketing company that’s been quietly churning out unique angles for powerhouse global clients such as Nike, Ricoh, Comcast, Ritz Carlton, Wilson Sporting Goods and AmeriGas.

“Boyds hired us to produce a year-long, 360-degree campaign utilising traditional, experimental and digital assets that pay homage to their rich history but also look to the future and the next 85 years,” explains Nikolas Greenblatt, president and chief creative officer of Defy.

“They wanted to stand out from the pack, so we developed a bold, sophisticated campaign to celebrate Boyds’ legendary legacy, thank its loyal constituent base, and highlight the luxury retailer’s embrace of evolution as it welcomes a new generation of customers.”

Defy’s creative concept “Boyds for Life” is grounded in the retailer’s four generations of family ownership and sustained client relationships.” They loved the tagline, and it just made sense,” said Greenblatt. “Boyds has literally been around for a lifetime, and they’ve been here for many of their customers’ milestone life moments.”

Bold visual statement

To unite legacy and new-to-Boyds audiences, Defy paired vintage ads with a fresh anniversary logo, a new font, and modern fashion photography. The team incorporated a palette of rich jewel tones, which made a bold visual statement. A stitching motif also figured prominently in the creative concept, emphasising Boyds’ precision and meticulous attention to detail.

The video was a centrepiece of the campaign. Over the course of a multi-day, on-site shoot, the Defy team captured first-person accounts from Boyds’s ownership, staff, and clients. They then cut together an edit summarising everything that has contributed to Boyds’ 85 years of success.

This was augmented with a series of shorter videos, including an ASMR mini-series that amplified the sounds and textures inherent in the Boyds experience.

Forward and back

Billboards, window installations, in-store elements, packaging, direct mail and digital assets rounded out the campaign. Through these elements, Boyds tells a cohesive, 360-degree story to clients at all touchpoints and demonstrates that although the brand’s values haven’t changed in 85 years, its vision is fresh, future-focused, and visionary.

“Our campaign combines Boyds’ history and future in a really smart way,” says Emily Huddell, SVP of brand development at Defy. “We incorporated photography from Boyds’ decades of evolution and co-mingled it with fresh colours and a modern design. The juxtaposition of history and future is in every piece.”

Changing times

This isn’t the first time Defy has been tapped to commemorate a landmark anniversary. Nike hired them to commemorate the brand’s 50th anniversary, and they were also tasked with marking premier watch provider Govberg Jewelers’ 90th year in business.

In fact, Defy recently underwent a rebranding of its own, changing its name from [2 one 5] Creative to Defy during the pandemic after more than two decades in business.

Founded in 2001, the agency’s early years were spent working with action sports brands such as Burton Snowboards in 2004, developing campaigns featuring Olympians Shaun White and Hannah Teter. After the 2008 recession, the company pivoted and broke into the luxury goods and lifestyle market, working with companies such as Govberg Jewelers, Yamron, Lily Pulitzer and UNIQLO.

With a new name, Defy’s focus is now on creating strategic campaigns and digital content and expanding its services, such as animation, video and directed 3D and 4D conceptual photography.

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