Wednesday, May 26, 2010

X-RAY China: Old Levi’s Launches New Jeans Brand in China

Earlier this year Levi’s, the iconic American brand announced it is going to launch a new global brand in China. This is the first time the company had launched a brand outside the US, which highlights the importance of China to the company.

Despite Levis Strauss & Co. having a 150 year history, Levi’s has only been in China for the last ten years. Previously it pulled out its China operations and manufacturing in 1993 due ‘pervasive violation of human rights’ by its factory contractors making its garments. Since its return it has built a strong reputation and now has over 500 stores on the mainland.

The brand is well known in China as being fashionable and premium, but is also seen by many as being too expensive. So this new sub brand will help to grow its market share, as an entry point to the brand. This diffusion strategy is more common among the high end fashion brands, which Giorgio Armani was a pioneers of in the 80s.

Realising the market for couture fashion was shrinking Giorgio Armani, began creating a number of lower priced diffusion lines, to extend the brand to a wider market. The brand now stretches from the topline Giorgio Armani and Armani Collezioni, down thorough to Emporio Armani, Armani AX and lastly Armani Jeans.

Media magazine recently ran a story about Levi’s; Will Levi’s new global brand prove a good fit in China? As part of that piece, I was interviewed by journalistic Kenny Lim, on my thoughts.

“This new offering could work for Levi’s, as a lot more consumers are likely to get to know the brand now. In terms of strategy and the rollout, it must make a very clear distinction between its main and secondary brand.

The sub-brand must have a unique look and feel and consumers need to be able to see the difference, so this has to be supported by clear communications. In terms of a brand launch, there cannot be a better time than summer – as messages of vibrancy and youthful exuberance can be conveyed and is suited for the new brand.

The new line can’t just be a cheaper version of Levi’s but yet it must still reflect the overall heritage of the brand.”

A handful of other consultants were also interviewed and added some smart comments to the debate. You can read their responses and the full story here.

One big questions to be answered, is how the new brand will fit with the current brand lines of Levi’s® (est. 1873), Dockers® (est. 1986) and Signature by Levi Strauss & Co.™ (est. 2003). Also how will they brand it; using the Levi’s name, in part or full; or create a new name and identity?

Interestingly, the red and white Levi’s ‘bat wing’ logo that the brand currently uses, was designed in 1969 by Walter Landor the founder on my company Landor.

When Levi Strauss & Co. executives wanted a new garment label for their blue jeans in 1969, they came to Walter Landor, whose designers developed the distinctive red-and-white “batwing” to be placed on back pockets. The red shield mimicked the pocket’s stitch pattern and incorporated the Levi’s lettering. This was among the first designs to mix capital and lowercase letters throughout a single logo.

In the 1950s, blue jeans were a symbol of rebellion against society, which is very similar to how they were viewed in China in the early 80s. Nowadays, they have become a mainstream garment and a staple item in everyone’s wardrobes. However, I predict the new Levi’s brand might echo its rebel roots, to help differentiate itself and better connect with the urban youth in China...X-RAY China

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