How to Stay Relevant From Someone Irrelevant


Levi Strauss and Company has been in business for approximately 150 years and they show no signs of stopping now. The apparel company survived the great depression, the 70’s AND the 80’s, and the most-recent recession. For 150 years, they have remained a key player in the apparel industry both in the United States and abroad in almost every corner of the world.

“How do they do it?” a lot of competitors ask. Levi’s has yet to release its top secret recipe for success but if I had to guess, I would presume that the company’s commitment to tradition and enthusiasm for innovation are key ingredients. The two elements have kept the company in business since 1873 and it will keep them in business for years to come. With tradition and innovation in mind, I have two suggestions for the company.

Levi’s used to be the jean of Hollywood’s elite. In the company’s official archives, there are letters from Cary Grant, Henry Kissinger, Lady Bird Johnson, silent-movie star/cowboy William S. Hart, and a young, suave Clint Eastwood. I want to see Levi’s become the jean of choice in Hollywood once again. The last thing I want is for Levi’s to become a sellout brand endorsed by the latest winner of the Bachelor, but the brand could benefit from endorsement by the right kinds of celebrities. I want to see stars like best actress Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence. She is known for her talent, modesty and laid-back personality and is a role model to young girls and women of all ages by showing off and refusing to abandon her womanly figure.

Don’t forget about Angelina Jolie. Whether you love her or hate her, one cannot deny the fact that she is using her star power to make a difference at home and abroad. She once told Forbes, “In my early 20s, I was fighting with myself. Now, I take that punk in me to Washington, and I fight for something important.” Jolie would be an excellent addition to the “Go Forth” campaign, inspiring people to speak out against social injustice.

As for the men, Levi’s could benefit from a tall glass of Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio is an environmental activist who served on the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-produced a documentary called The 11th Hour on climate change and the problematic state of the environment. DiCaprio would be a great spokesperson for Levi’s Waste<Less or Water<Less collections along with other future sustainability efforts.

My last piece of advice: Don’t lose sight of your natural genius. Levi Strauss and Company makes jeans that are both functional and sexy. Please keep making jeans that are high quality and tough as an ox. I may never clean out a barn in them, but it’s the thought that counts. Consumers want a pair of jeans that they can feel confident in. In this way, I hope Levi’s doesn’t change. Innovation is a wonderful thing, as demonstrated by the Curve ID and Revel collections, but never forget the materialistic monster inside us all who wants to look and feel our best.

I can’t wait to see what the company is doing on their 200th anniversary.




Social Media Matters

“Like” this! “Tweet” that! “Pin” it! Social media has become a force to be reckoned with and while some companies are successful in growing their fan base via social media, others are failing to meet user expectations. I discussed Levi’s online presence previously in my post “Consumer Confidence: It’s More Than ‘Likes'” and I called Levi’s out for not having very many Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram followers. I even made a Justin Beiber reference… yikes! I have since realized that I was wrong. While there is room for improvement, Levi’s has successfully infiltrated the World Wide Web through YouTube, Pinterest, and multiple Tumblr accounts. In this blog, we will take a look at a few of Levi’s most popular Internet holdings.

Facebook currently has 20,878,997 likes. Christmas is only a few weeks away so they are promoting clothing as potential gifts. Every post has a photo, video, or photo album attached to it. On December 3, they posted a photo of the devastation in the Philippines. They promised to donate $1 for every “like” and $5 for every “share” the post got to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The post got almost 13,000 “likes” and 5,000 “shares.” This post is an example of Levi’s dedication to civic engagement.


Twitter has 383,612 followers. There are a lot of tweets with attached photos promoting new winter wear and sales. The account tweets once or twice a day and its tweets are pretty promotional.

Instagram has 153,335 followers. The pictures are mostly of clothes and products, with a lot of them being taken in beautiful locations. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, the Instagram account’s photos are artsy and portray a sense of adventure. I would follow this account.

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13,405 people subscribe to the YouTube account. There are videos about the brand’s Station to Station events, the Levi’s skateboarding and commuter/cycling culture, and commentary from pro basketball player Russell Westbook on his style. The videos are less sales oriented and more biopic than other accounts which I found to be refreshing.

In an unexpected twist, Levi’s has a Pinterest page. Its 7,558 followers have access to 11 boards with such themes as “vintage,” “DIY denim,” and “As Seen On” which makes it easy for users to stalk their favorite Levi’s wearing celebrities. My favorite board is “Made of Progress.” It shows users how to reuse old denim and turn it into jewelry, accessories, furniture, and other random things. The board goes along with the company’s sustainability efforts to extend the lifespan of jeans. The Pinterest account is fun and a break from mainstream social media.

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Social media is more than a way for my peers to interact; it is a source of news and persuasion. Social media tells us what to watch, who to root for, and what to buy. Every company is vying for attention, to be an opinion leader, and social media sites provide them the opportunity to do so. If Levi’s wants to standout however they need to stop pushing promotional content and stick to what they are good at— inspiring action.


Images taken using screen shot for Mac computers.

From American Icon to International Symbol

From an American icon…


to an international symbol of change.


When you think of Levi’s, you think of an American icon. Founded during the formation of the West, the jeans were built tough to match the needs of the country’s trailblazers and first cowboys. As our nation evolved, so did the wearers of the jean. Working women, Hollywood’s elite, and hip teens joined the ranks and Levi’s became the go-to jean for American’s everywhere. Today, America’s favorite denim company has found fans across the globe with products sold in 110 countries.

Not so surprisingly, Levi Strauss and Company has an established consumer base in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, and Canada. What is surprising however is that approximately half of the company’s net revenues come from sales outside the U.S. Levi’s attributes its success in international markets due to its “track record of responsible business practices,” and “respect for local communities.”

A company of integrity, Levi Strauss and Company supports societal and environmental change. It’s also an employer responsible for the livelihoods of thousands of workers globally. Keeping the basic needs and human rights of its workers in mind, Levi’s was the first multinational apparel company to create a code of conduct that requires all suppliers and factories they partner with to meet certain ethical standards, sustainability goals, and employment standards. The company also supports the “Building Assets Program” that helps people living in poverty save their money. Levi Strauss and Company values the “little guy,” making it a company that people want to work for.

Levi Strauss and Company is a company with a conscience, but that isn’t the sole reason for its success abroad. If a product that catches my eye was made ethically and sustainably, all the better, but what drives most consumers like myself is appearance and the feeling a product gives us. Levi’s creates products that are visually appealing and stylish. Levi’s also makes its products a desirable through advertising campaigns that are often risqué and push the envelope.

Levi’s first global marketing campaign, “Go Forth,” is a bold and enticing advertising endeavor that promotes the brand’s image while acting as a “rally cry,” calling on modern consumers to take action and create change.

Of the campaign, Global President of the brand, Robert Handsen, said, “Youthful optimism and energy are at the core of our DNA and this overarching theme resonates with people around the world. Go Forth is more than a marketing idea. It is also a rally cry; because now, more than ever, the world needs people with a pioneering spirit who still believe that anything is possible. For youth today, optimism is power.”

The campaign capitalizes on the modern consumer’s revolutionary spirit and features attractive youth breaking out from the norms of society, thus encouraging consumers to get involved in grassroots and global initiatives.

Levi’s jeans will always be an image of early America. The brand has evolved though, sharing the pioneering spirit of its roots across the world. Thanks to the company’s initiatives in improving workers rights and the environment and it’s global “Go Forth” campaign calling everyday people to make a difference, the Levi’s brand is a symbol of growth and change across the world.

Levi’s “Go Forth” commercial for the United States

Levi’s global “Go Forth” commercial


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Different Sub-brands, Different Demographics, Same Quality

Levi Strauss and Company has a number of successful sub-brands in its back pocket. Levi’s, Dockers, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co., and Denizen are all part of the Levi Strauss family; each brand is created to fulfill the needs of different demographics. In addition, each sub-brand has original product lines to reach specific consumers market within a demographic. The different brands cater to different age and economic demographics and the product lines under each sub-brand aim to attract based on interest and behavioral appeal.

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The most successful and recognizable sub-brand of the Levi Strauss family is Levi’s. Levi’s jeans, most notably the 501 jean, are$50-100 a pair and produced for the demographic referred to as “Trend influencers.” These jeans are meant for the middle class and upper middle class with some dispensable resources.

Levi’s prides itself on it’s reputation as “America’s jean,” classic and cool. The brand stays true to it’s traditional roots— with all jeans featuring the iconic red, white tag on the back pocket— while creating innovative product lines that keep the company current and on-trend. The brand created the Commuter series line for cycling enthusiasts and daily trekkers. The line features fabric meant to stand up against the elements by repelling water dirt swear. The brand also supports the planet through environmentally friendly production practices and through it’s Waste<Less and Water<Less brand. For women, the brand has a Curve ID line meant to fit every woman of every shape and Levi’s Revel jeans have “four-way stretch memory” and are made using “liquid shaping technology.”

The more expensive and up-scale Premium Red Tab line and Levi’s Classic Upgrade collections are sold at retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman-Marcus to target upper class consumers known as “Trend Initiators.”

Dockers is also a well-known brand regarded as an authority in khaki pants. Originally worn primarily as a dress pant, Dockers has made great strides in renovating the reputation of khakis. Khakis are now offered in a variety of fits to appeal to younger consumers who prefer a “slimmer” fit at their ankles and middle-aged consumers who like them looser. Dockers produces khakis in assortment of colors. There are the classic khaki colors— light khaki, medium, brown, navy, grey and black— and then there are the bright, bold hues like cumin, brick red, rose, pesto, pomegranate, and oxide orange that you don’t hear of everyday. Slim fits and bright colors are how Dockers supports the “modern definition of masculinity that is helping to reignite the khaki category.”

Levi Strauss and company has sub-brands targeting consumers on both ends of the economic spectrum. The new sub-brand Levi Signature is sold at discount retailers like Wal-Mart to target “bargain” shoppers with less money to spend on frills. Denizen was the company’s first global brand introduced internationally originally. It was marketed to Asian with middle market pricing (aka more expensive than low-cost, generic brands, but cheaper than luxury brands— as having great value despite its inexpensive cost. Denizen is now sold in the United States exclusively at Target.

With so many sub-brands and product lines, how can consumers choose just one brand to purchase? Levi Strauss and Company is banking on the hope that consumers cannot, indeed, choose, and that their products attract customers from a variety of demographics.


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Be Seductive, Be Productive, Be Levi’s

Fashion and clothing are all about image. As consumers, we purchase clothing to set ourselves apart, to demonstrate our worth, and to improve our social standing in equal parts. The way we dress has as much impact on our appearance as our God-given features do. Our style, and the pieces of clothing that comprise it, are a part of our greater brand; our style is a part of our identity. In this way, fashion has a deeper affect on us than originally thought.

A good clothing manufacturer recognizes this connection between clothing and personal identity. A great clothing company makes it their mission to develop and deepen it.

How does Levi’s use imagery to set itself apart from the masses and attract consumers? First, they remain consistent in branding. The leather patch on the waistband of Levi’s jeans was introduced in the 1800s and in the 1930’s, the small, red tag simply reading “Levi’s” was affixed to the right back pocket. Both forms of branding have withstood the test of time and have been sewn onto every pair of Levi’s jeans ever since. In the present day market, a person with a basic knowledge of clothing and brands can distinguish Levi’s denim from competitors at a distance. Theses labels are well known; they are inseparable from the brand.

Like any strong, well-thought ad campaign should, advertisements for Levi’s feature a call to action. Levi’s ads create interest in particular because they are provocative and thought provoking. To market the iconic 501 jean, the company used multiple campaigns based around the tag line “Live Unbuttoned.” Ads featured models in suggestive positions, performing daredevil antics, and answering the question “Who do you want to unbutton?” The ads were interactive and attractive. Consumers were prompted to ask themselves how wearing 501 jeans would impact their life— Will the boy who tutors me in math finally notice me? Will the jeans give me the nerve to approach the cute guy who frequents my favorite coffee shops?

Levi’s current campaign calls consumers to be courageous, to be free spirited, to forge their own way, to go out into the world and make it better. “Go Forth” the ads say. One particular ad within the same campaign reminds consumers of the company’s and America’s, humble beginnings. “This country was not made by men in suits,” the ads proudly proclaim. The underlying message is simple but affective: Everyday people forged this country, people like you and me. We as consumers can make a difference. No really, it is possible!

From pants and pockets, to malls, magazines, and billboards, Levi’s uses imagery to establish brand recognition and persuade consumers that clothing and identity are unified. Do you want a pair of jeans that drags you down or do you want jeans that finally give you the nerve you needed to succeed? Appearance and identify are interconnected, just like the fashion industry and its use of images.

Controversy Over Curves (Or Lack Thereof)

Where is the “curve” in Curve ID Jeans? An immeasurable amount of female consumers are asking the same thing. Ladies everywhere were excited when Levi’s announced that the iconic brand was launching a new line of women’s jeans that were created with a more “mature” female shape in mind. Finally, gone were the days of jumping up and down and lying on the ground trying to pulls jeans up and over the hump that is the female bottom. Levi’s finally understood our pains, thought women. Levi’s cares, and even better, Levi’s appreciates the beauty of a curvy bottom.

The anticipation for Curve ID grew and bloggers throughout the “bloggersphere” applauded Levi’s for taking initiative and doing what other jeans companies had failed to do— to create different jeans for different shapes that would not only fit but also flatter. An abundance of positive praise for the brand was circulating amongst media outlets, bloggers, and from woman to woman by word of mouth. That is until the line and its associated ad campaign were launched. The ad featured three, stick-thin Caucasian models. To many, the difference in the shape of their rears was so slight that one needed a microscope to even pretend that there was a real variance amongst them.

Women felt cheated. The average size of the American woman is size 14. Here was an ad meant for the American woman that did not reflect the average American woman. While Levi’s is definitely not the only clothing brand to advertise with only slender women, in this instance, the use of size zero models did not match the line’s core message. As pointed out by Jim Cooper, editorial director for AdWeek Magazine, “jeans are an incredibly emotional purchase for women.” He’s right too. We try on pair after pair. We often ask two or three friends for their opinions and when we finally do deem a pair fit for purchase, we leave the sales tags on until the moment we wear them out of the house. Jeans mean something to women, all women. Cooper said it best: “Levi’s is doing a disservice to their customers in trying to fool women.” He even went so far as to call the brand hypocritical for claiming to love all female shapes and then running a national campaign featuring models he described as “thin, thin, and thinner.”

Maybe what is more noteworthy however is how Levi’s responded to the criticism— they didn’t. The company continued to run the ads, and similar ads in the future, lacking variety in size and race. The only concession made was the addition of the “Supreme” shape that was designed “to solve the fit frustrations of the curviest women.” (Personally, being deemed “supreme” wouldn’t make me a happy consumer either.)

Regardless of the criticism the company received, the jeans prospered. Two years since the launch, the line has been expanded and now features a variety of cuts and even colors.  So what does this say about the female consumer one might ponder. While we may huff and puff, at the end of the day all we really want is a jean that makes us feel confident. If we find that special jean we will buy it, regardless of the way it is advertised.


Ever-Changing, Always Innovative

The blue jean, the denim jacket, the classic and effortlessly cool look — this is what Levi Strauss and Company is known for. Such staples are the past, present, and future of the Levi’s brand. While tradition will always remain, it is important to recognize that at Levi Strauss and Company innovation will also flourish.

Embracing the female form and encouraging women to do the same, Levi’s Curve ID was launched in 2010. The jean line focused on the shape of a woman, not on her size. WHAT? One can only imagine the collective gasp that escaped from the mouths of Levi’s’ competitors after the groundbreaking announcement; a gasp that was met by shouts of approval from woman and possibly a few tears. Mary Alderete, global vice president of women’s marketing for the Levi’s® brand, said at the time, “We believe women of all shapes should be able to find a pair of jeans that fit them instead of having to fit into the jeans.” My curvaceous behind and I couldn’t agree more, Mary.

Advertisement for Levi's Curve ID. Image from

Advertisement for Levi’s Curve ID. Image from

Another sign of innovation goes beyond the world of sketchpads, sowing machines, and fabric. Levi’s latest artistic endeavor is actually not related to clothing at all. Levi’s is the driving body and one of six curators of the digital magazine Modern Frontier. The magazine is produced using Flipboard. Apple’s iPad app of the year in 2010, Flipboard is an app that collects content from Twitter and Facebook, recognizes what users care about, and curates a digital, interactive magazine.

Modern Frontier spotlights innovative thinkers and acts of creativity with diverse pieces from the fields of art, culture, technology, style, design, entertainment and food. A collection of inspiration, the materials found within the digital pages of the magazine include: images, videos, and articles from the Internet.

Read Modern Frontier here.

So why create a digital magazine that has little to do with clothing? Why create a digital magazine at all? Especially when the company is already so successful. In the words of James Curleigh, president of Global Levi’s Brand, “In a world that is sometimes confusing and seemingly harder to understand, why waste time trying to predict the future . . . Let’s get busy creating it.  That’s how true pioneers tend to think . . . That’s how Levi Strauss thought back in 1873.”

Levi’s is hoping to cultivate the future of artistic expression and innovation through an innovation of it’s own. The company is going out on a limb and putting its brand’s credibility at risk in order to inspire people who are not necessarily going to purchase its products. Maybe the reason for Modern Frontier doesn’t involve making money at all. Maybe Levi’s is hoping to cultivate culture instead. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea? A company creating something meaningful regardless of its earning potential is practically unheard of. But maybe that is another part of Levi’s changing brand strategy. Levi’s may be doing the unimaginable to become the unimaginable— a brand of people, not just of clothing.

Image retrieved from

Now that’s what I call branding!
Image retrieved from