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Published by: sujit121 on Apr 05, 2011
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In 1986, Levi Strauss & Company found that the best way to stay true blue to itscustomers was to change its colors. Riding high on the results of a recent “back tobasis” campaign with its flagship 501 brand, Levi's was enjoying reinvigorated jeanssales. But the good news was followed by bad. Research showed that babyboomers, the core of the company's customer franchise, were buying only one ortwo pairs of jeans annually, compared to the four to five pairs purchased each yearby 15 to 24-year-olds.Born between 1946 and 1964, the baby boomers had adopted jeans as asymbol of their break with the tastes and traditions of their parents. They had, inthe words of Steve Goldstein, vice president of marketing and research for Levi's,helped turn the company into an “international global colossus” in the apparelindustry. Now, however, the baby boomers were looking for something different.They still wanted clothing that was comfortable and made from natural fabrics, butfashion had become more important. Many worked in environments with relaxeddress codes, so they sought clothing that combined style and versatility—somethingappropriate for both professional and leisure activities.“We set ourselves out to answer the big question,” Goldstein says. “Howcould we keep the baby boomer generation in Levi's brands when they weren'twearing so many pairs of Levi's jeans? And the answer was Dockers, somethingbetween the jean that they loved and the dress pants that their parents expectedthem to wear when they got their first job.”Dockers created a product category—new casuals. Blue denim was out;cotton khaki (in brown, green, black, and navy, but mostly traditional tan) was in.Positioned as more formal than jeans yet more casual than dress slacks, Docker'ssatisfied an unfulfilled need. They were the right pants for a variety of occasions,
an unpretentious alternative to dressy, tailored slacks.The challenge in marketing Dockers was to leverage the Levi's name andheritage while establishing the independence of the new brand, and to do sowithout detracting from Levi's core jeans focus. According to Goldstein, thecompany briefly considered not using the Levi's name at all, but realized that thiswould be “sort of like trying to put a space shuttle up without any launch rockets.So the original theme for Dockers was “Levi's 100 percent cotton Dockers. If you'renot wearing Dockers, you're just wearing pants.”Response from retailers and from the target market of 25- to 49-year-oldswas everything Levi's hoped for. All the top menswear accounts across the countryplaced the new product in their stores, and in only five years, Dockers became a $1billion brand. Brand awareness among men 25 and older was 98 percent, and 70percent of target consumers had at least one pair of Dockers in their closets.With the new brand sailing along smoothly, Levi Strauss & Company began todissociate Dockers from the company brand name. In 1993, the Levi's name andthe words “since 1850” were removed from the Dockers logo. Robert Hanson, vicepresident of marketing and research for Dockers, claims the change was needed to“allow the Levi's brand to be focused on the core teen target because…it's thequintessential icon of youth culture.”Still following the baby boomer market, Levi's in 1996 brought out Slates, anextensive line of wool, polyester microfiber, and fine-gauge cotton dress pants.“We thought there was room in a man's closet for a third brand,” says Jann Westfall,president of the Slates division. “That's why Slates was created to [fill the gap]between khakis and suits.” To Levi Strauss & Company, it seemed a naturalevolution—the guy who wore Levi's in the '70s and Dockers in the '80s would beready for Slates in the '90s. Slates would be the high end of casual, neatly fillingthe “lunch with client/salary review with boss” role in the Docker man's wardrobe.
Consumer research told Levi's that consumers found shopping for dress pantsa chore: slacks departments were dreary; finding the right size was difficult; andgetting alterations was frustrating. Consumers wanted cash and carry, off-the-rackdress pants. So Levi’s devised a carefully crafted strategy to overcome the typicalmale distaste for dress pants shopping. Slates were sold in scientifically testedselling areas consisting of mahogany-toned circular store displays that allowed easyaccess to the various styles and sizes. Levi's also responded with off-the-rack pantsthat require little altering. Whereas most dress pants come only in even waist sizes,forcing alterations for off-size men, Slates also come in odd sizes. All Slates arehemmed and cuffed and have double pleats in the front. For customers with largerwaist sizes, the pleats are more kindly placed.Levi’s backed Slates with $20 million in advertising, beginning with televisionads at the opening of the National Football League season. To charm potentialcustomers, Levi’s agency designed ads such as one showing a guy springing upfrom lunch with his partner to tango with his waitress. “The ads are stylish but theyare not over [the market's] heads,” said Nancy Friedman, vice president of researchand development. “The trick is to rein it back in so it isn't so chi-chi that peoplecan't relate to it.” A year later, everyone agreed that Slates was a dynamite brand.Levi’s had turned on the Dockers customer to dress slacks just when “corporatecasual” started to “dress up.” Noted one industry insider, “Slates and other labelshave pushed the envelope. This has created a tremendous consumer awareness forslacks in general.” Some retailers found that their tailored pants business was up15 to 20 percent.However, just like the good news about Levi’s “back to basics” move adecade earlier, the good news about Slates has been accompanied by bad news—plummeting market share in the core jeans market. Although Levi Strauss had 30.9percent of the U.S. blue jeans business in 1990, it had only 18.7 percent seven

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