Gideon Summerfield says the world-famous brand’s launch on to the
Internet is not entirely free of risk
In 140 years Levi Strauss has gone from workwear to possibly the most
valuable, street-wise fashion brand in the world. So if taking any brand
on to the Internet is a risk, for Levi’s you can double it.
That said, it was an important area for the company to address. After
all, as Levi’s senior marketing manager in the US, Steve Wilkie, points
out, it’s those young males haunting the Internet who drive Levi’s
A successful experiment late in 1994, in which ads carried an e-mail
address, led to talks on a permanent Internet presence with Levi’s US
agency, Foote Cone and Belding. By spring last year, Levi’s in the US
decided to go with just one, global site and to team up with the
‘It’s as close as you can get to a 50:50 joint-venture,’ Martin Rippon,
Levi’s senior marketing manager in Europe, says. ‘We didn’t want 27
sites of varying quality.
‘It forced us to think of what the brand means at the global level,’ he
adds. An international team of more than 20 was drawn from Levi’s,
together with a variety of external outfits. Linked by the Internet,
they ‘virtually’ brainstormed for six months.
While FCB worried about content with Levi’s in the US, the London-based
design consortium, Obsolete, was chosen by Levi’s in the UK. Bartle
Bogle Hegarty, Levi’s agency for Europe, was not side-stepped, it holds
an overseeing role.
Back in the US, FCB chose Organic Online for programming and Web-server
management. Levi’s site is surf-friendly and Organic has implemented a
hot technique still rare elsewhere on the Net - animation.
Text is all but absent from Levi’s home-page. A grid of icons links it
to seven areas. Three zones are given over to company information: its
history, products and commercials. Others are designed to draw in Levi’s
target audience of 15- to 24-year-olds, with ‘e-zines’ on youth culture
and street fashion. Its quality content appears well-targeted but a
unified site could damage existing brand marketing and, being global,
might undermine local efforts.
‘Our going-in point was that it had to meet the standards of all our
above-the-line marketing,’ Rippon says. But Levi’s research revealed
only 4 per cent of 15- to 29-year-olds in Europe had Internet access.
With so few watching why such expense? Levi’s will not reveal the cost
but Internet pundits reckon more than pounds 300,000.
‘Investment,’ is Rippon’s reply. ‘The Internet will become an important
environment. We’re getting in early.’
Levi’s is planning more virtual meeting-places, where visitors can
interact with each other. The Valentine service earlier this month
invited people to pick a card and style which the server composed and
invited the Valentine (by e-mail) to see it.
Levi’s will not say how many ‘hits’ the site gets. But traffic is
growing, Rippon claims: ‘We’ve avoided driving too much traffic to it
because we haven’t got the infrastructure in place to respond.’
This month, however, the team meets in person to plan how to do this,
discuss how best to glean research from the site and to organise a
survey of Net users.
Clearly, Levi’s feels the Internet points to the future. First, Wilkie
says, one-to-one marketing is the ideal. Rippon adds: ‘This has promoted
the idea... of an inevitable global convergence of all our marketing