Richard Cook profiles the man who has doubled Lee jeans’s sales in five
It can’t be any fun being the international marketing director of a top
jeans company. You’ve got to hang out in clubs, check out the hot new
bands and circulate with the pretty people at parties.
And for Lee’s Derek Woodgate, it could all have been so different. When
he finished his degree in Comparative Slav at London University, he
joined the Foreign Office and was posted to Tito’s drab Zagreb - a place
where ‘party’ was only ever spelt with a capital P.
Last week, Woodgate unveiled details of Lee’s latest ad campaign, a
pounds 5 million extravaganza featuring the stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee,
and 50s legend, Jerry Lee Lewis. They might not send the backing track
- John Lee Hooker’s Baby Lee - to the top of the charts, but they are
likely to continue the process that started when Woodgate joined the
company from rivals, Lee-Cooper, five years ago, of increasing brand
awareness and sales in the core 20- to-24-year-old market.
‘What the success of Levi’s marketing has done is make us more focused
on building our own territory and given us a clearer brand image: to use
a musical analogy more rock than techno, indie but not out on the edge
Music has always been important for Woodgate. A succession of student
bands culminated in his starring on vocals and guitar for an outfit
called Camouflage and he now shepherds the thriving young band, Ashbury
Faith, through gigs and appearances on MTV.
Now 48, Woodgate speaks seven languages and, in addition, studied social
anthropology at the Open University during his stint at the Foreign
Office. He reckons that this helps his analysis of the youth market. ‘It
helped me forecast that glam punk was going to happen at least four
years ago and put me on early to grunge.’
However eclectic, the mix clearly works. Brand awareness is up from 22
per cent to 47 per cent in the UK and sales have doubled since he took
over. His target now is to double sales again by the year 2000: last
week’s decision to up UK media spend by 80 per cent this year isn’t a
bad place to start.