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Levi’s 3 branding secrets

Keeping a brand relevant while remaining loyal to its roots “is not an easy business,” said John Anderson of Levi Strauss & Co. during yesterday’s keynote address—but the LEVI’S brand has endured thanks to three key strategies.

Authenticity, iconography and innovation are the factors that have helped LEVI’S to thrive for 150 years, said Anderson, who is President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco. 

Levi’s has done this first and foremost by maintaining the authenticity of its products and business practices. The integrity of both the brand and the company behind it “is critical to a brand’s success,” said Anderson. This includes making a difference in the community and implementing progressive company policies. Levi Strauss continued to pay employees while it rebuilt following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and became the first company to offer benefits to same-sex partners in 1992. “Consumers and business partners recognize that we have a set of principles that keep the brand fresh and distinct,” said Anderson.  

But with that recognition comes the need to maintain and protect the iconography of the brand. Anderson recounted the history of the LEVI’S trademark, which by the start of World War II included distinctive orange stitching, complete with an arcuate design on the jeans’ back pocket. Because the ornamental stitching seemed wasteful during the war, when supplies were low, the company improvised by hand painting the design onto the pockets “for the duration” of the war, as the logo explained. 

That type of innovation is the company’s final secret to success—in addition to rethinking sizing for women’s jeans and updating the brand’s logo for the 21st Century, Levi Strauss & Co. recently introduced the first WATER <LESS jean, which saved 16 million liters of water this spring alone. “Brands have to introduce new ideas constantly for new markets,” said Anderson.

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