This short feature investigates the digital branding tools deployed by Levi’s as part of iVersity’s Building Strong Digital Brands MOOC.
Selected website: Levi Strauss (UK)
I decided to review Levi Strauss as I was curious to see how this international, time warn brand chose to engage with customers in today’s digitally rich world.
Interestingly, Levi’s seem to be one of those companies that, from the very earlies days of its existence, knew about good branding.
- Levi’s and the brand big four (IAIC)
As a consumer brand (B2C), Levi’s has a tremendous opportunities to engage audience through digital media.
Levi boasts brand assets on the following platforms: Facebook (22.2M likes), Twitter US (775.3K followers), Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube (41.8k subs) and Instagram. Branding is consistent across those resources.
Web and social media resources exploit responsive design ie the brand experience is tailored to the platform it is viewed upon (smartphone, tablet, etc.) and has consistency across platforms. Levi’s cater to multitude regions having web sites in multiple languages. The wide range of resources can be accessed on demand, across multiple platforms.
Levi’s offers limited interactive resources. I noted that they have a product selector sub-divided into individual sub-brands like the 501 selector or Selvedge selector. They also feature a shop lookbook which emphasises visuals. With a multitude of sub brands and clothing types they do have complexity to deal with when telling their various stories from a central web site. I noted that they have a guided feedback system, which I felt they could make more of. I noted that they have some online resources to guide how individuals can customise products building a personalised brand experience (more here).
The web resources are responsive – ie the brand experience is tailored to the platform it is viewed upon (smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC) and has consistency across those platforms. Further research lead me to discover that in South Africa Levi’s commissioned the Pioneer Nation app, which aims to make customers the hero of their own story.
Brand storytelling at Levi’s
This is one of the core strengths of Levi’s. The story is simple and well known. Levi’s was established by a German migrant who moved to the San Francisco in 1853 (during the gold rush). He established a dry goods and clothing business. Levi Strauss, together with Jacob Davis, a tailor from Reno, teamed to create the hard working denim jeans. Part of their uniqueness was the steel riveting used to give strength.
In 1886 the iconic ‘two horses’ brand mark was registered and this symbol conveys the brand promise with clarity. The Levi’s brand reward promise, comprise the following elements: Quality, strength, longevity, utility.
Brand positioning – The original denim jean. Levi’s brand values: Empathy, Integrity, Originality and Courage.
Levi’s offers an interesting walk through their last 150 years of history here (Levi’s timeline). This resource shows a clear commitment to brand. The best source of brand information and storytelling is Levi’s central brand site: www-http://www.levistrauss.com
Brand storytelling into the future.
Brands must move with the times to stay relevant. This is an active process for Levi’s with the ‘Made of progress’ initiative. Sustainability is a concern for many, and Levi’s has responded accordingly.
Levi’s brand codes
Brand codes comprise the human engagement channels that a brand uses to deliver its brand experience. This comprises four elements as follows: senses, symbols, stories and language. What follows is a quick comment of each of these elements as adopted by Levi’s.
Levi jeans provide a multi-sensory experience in reality. Clothing choice is a highly personal decision. In the real world out on the streets and more specifically in the store Levi’s can delivery a multi-sensory experience including, sight, touch, smell and sound. In an online environment senses are naturally limited to sight and sound, but with creative multi-media storytelling Levi’s can create resources that can exploit user imagination to fill in some of the missing senses (as any cinematic experience can).
A number of brand symbols have emerged over the years from the ‘two horses’ to the ‘Red tab’ brand mark. Product names have also become iconic starting with 501s. More recently, Levi’s has placed greater emphasis on storytelling and user experience which is expressed through the #Livewithlevis initiative – which is a modern use of symbol.
Levi works hard at engaging individuals through stories. This is seen especially clearly in their recent Commuters campaign.
Recurring linguistic themes can be found in a broad range of Levi’s marketing. Themes include: quality, strength, longevity and utility. But the terms of reference for storytelling are deeply personal and connect with freedom and old world adventure. This is pitching the brand as a lifestyle choice.
Levi’s and People
People are the means through which human connection can be established and capturing depth to that connection is a powerful way to tell memorable brand stories. This is especially true if we can exploit the tools of the hero’s journey. We learned in the brand storytelling MOOC how that making the content consumer the hero of the journey can help amplify the brand communication effects. I have yet to find a stand out example of this approach however.
Another approach used is to make staff the heroes of the story. I uncovered this story from 5/11/15 just today from the New York times. Here we learn that the protagonist of this feature, Bart Sights, has a distinctive feature – his indigo blue fingernails.
Levi’s is a world of difference, or is it?
I took a quick look at one obvious competitor, namely Wrangler. What this quick research showed was that Wrangler have their own distinctive brand identity and rightly so.
Wrangler’s tag line is ‘Born ready’. Their most recent online promotions seem to be focused on emphasising comfort and style. Noteworthy is their use of the #comfortunderpressure hashtag in their twitter marketing.
What emerges from the Wrangler narrative is that, whilst Levi’s might be the original jeans, there’s plenty to engage an audience around a separate identity. In fact, with Wrangler’s they have created stories of adventure under the ‘Born ready’ theme. Through this approach, I can see their brand appealing to a younger more dynamic market demographic.