Levi Strauss & Co. – Back from its crisis as the Global Leader in Denim Wear?

Levi Strauss, a Bavarian dry goods merchant, and the tailor Jacob Davis patented their idea of fabricating pants through the use of rivets at points of strain in order to make them last longer. In 1873 the patent was granted and the blue jean was born.

During the 1890s the first pair of Levi’s 501 jeans was created – a style that has become one of the world’s best selling apparel items. Between the 1950s and 1980s the brand got popular, especially among youth subcultures. In 1996 the American company reached its peak with annual sales of $7.1 billion. But at that time they were confronted by different brands and less expensive items from abroad. The demand for denim jeans declined. In 2004, after being in the red for eight years, the company has stabilized again, burdening a debt of $2 billion. Today people of all age-groups wear jeans and the market holds an im-mense brand diversity, from no-name products up to designer jeans for $300. Levi’s Strauss & Co. has recovered, focusing on its core values being innovative, sustainable and progres-sive. By establishing new product lines, investing into technology and sustainability, as well as by realigning its marketing programs the brand sets up its objective to become again the global leader in denim wear.

When firms within the textile industry, such as Levi’s, attempt to reorganize or strengthen their established brands, experts call this process: Rebranding. As I-Hui She describes it within her thesis “The Effect of Retailers’ Rebranding Processes On Consumers’ Perceptions of a Rebranded Brand”, there are two major strategies: 1adopting a new designer for an existing brand to attract a new customer segment, and/or 2adding a new product line to an existing brand in order to focus on a new customer group. Levi Strauss & Co chose the second option.

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Live in Levi’s – campaign, 2014, levistrauss.com

Throughout the past years, LS&Co. has launched several new product lines by focusing on a wide price strategy. By selling Levi’s Signature at Walmart or Woolworth and establishing the premium lines Levi’s Red and Levi’s Vintage besides the traditional Levi’s brand, the company wants to confront its competitors on every price level. Whether this is a smart decision or not is questionable. New fits, cuts and washings are being launched. At the same time, teams at Levi’s own innovation center have been in the process developing new lines such as the Levi’s Commuter line – a more resilient, water- and dirt-repellent product line.

Levi’s has always been known for its innovative marketing campaigns. In 2014 the brand launched its latest campaign ‘Live in Levi’s’. This $96 million global campaign is about honoring and celebrating the icons: the original Levi’s 501, the trucker jacket and the western shirt. In early 2015 the new contemporary expression of the old bestseller has been launched: Levi’s 501 CT. The intention is to awake the enthusiasm of the existing and of new consumers. Musicians like Lana Del Ray, Flo Rida and Neil Diamond have been chosen for the campaigns as brand ambassadors.

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Live in Levi’s – campaign, 2014, levistrauss.com

Finally, the brand has updated its image to young, modern and cool with a traditional charm. I believe it is hard for Levi’s to hold the market leadership continuously just because of the enormous brand diversity and hybrid competition within this industry. But instead, they could find their own unique spot by concentrating on being diverse, especially since the firm shares a high value on fair trade, sustainability and social responsibility. So, why don’t they concentrate more on combining these topics with fashion trends and denim wear? A future marketing campaign addressing and combining these issues would bring a highly innovative perspective to the industry as well as a unique competitive advantage.


Sources:

She, I-Hui. The Effect of Retailers’ Rebranding Processes on Consumers’ Perceptions of a Rebranded Brand. Thesis. Oregon State University, 2010. Print.

Benjamin, Kim. “Levi’s Unveils ‘shoppable’ Film in Global Campaign.” Levi’s Campaign Highlights People’s Love for Their Jeans and Lets You Shop for Real Denim Looks. 2014.http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1306965/levis-unveils-shoppable-film-globalcampaign. 7 Jan. 2016.

Fairchild, Caroline. “Does Levi Strauss Still Fit America?” Does Levi Strauss Still Fit America Comments? Fortune, 18 Sept. 2014. Available from: http://fortune.com/2014/09/18/levi-strauss-chip-bergh/. 7 Jan. 2016.

Fishman, Charles. “The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know.” Fast Company. 1 Dec. 2003. Available from: http://www.fastcompany.com/47593/wal-mart-you-dont-know. 7 Jan. 2016.

„2014 Annual Report. Icons & Innovations.“ Levi Strauss, 2014. Print.

“Levi Strauss – Levi Strauss & Co.” Levi Strauss. Available from http://www.levistrauss.com. 7 Jan. 2016.

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