It is common in today’s market to see brands come and go. Often, a hot brand will explode onto the scene only to completely disappear from the industry in only a few years. So, how can a successful ride of over 160 years be explained? How did a clothing company established in the middle-1800s become a global icon? An analysis of Levi Strauss & Co. reveals the answers, all of which you can use to launch your own prosperous company.
Levi Strauss & Co. was established in 1853 when 24-year-old Levi Strauss immigrated from Buttenheim, Bavaria to America. To put that date in perspective, the United States consisted of only 31 states and the automobile had yet to be invented when Strauss arrived in New York. Levi soon moved to California in hopes of striking it rich during the gold rush. Although he didn’t uncover any gold, he did soon develop a blue jean that would make him famous.
A brand that was developed in 1953 had revenue totaling $4.68 billion in 2014, up 2% from the previous year. Levi Strauss & Co. commands the highest share of the global jeans market and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in the near future. How has this company been so successful for so long? The answer lies in their fundamental beliefs and vision, of which there are three primary parts.
Commitment – As a company, Levi is known for its authenticity. The products they make today are of equal or greater value to those made in their original warehouse. Because of that consistency, their classic 501 jeans have been the clothing of choice for the working class since the 19th century. Levi works hard to maintain and reinforce their reputation, which has made them admired and respected both within the clothing industry and in the marketplace as a whole.
So why is authenticity so important? According to the Authentic Brand Index, a study of the authenticity ratings of the world’s most popular brands, “In an age of abundant choice, consumers are drawn toward brands with an original story, an engaging identity, and a sincere commitment to deliver what they promise.”
Connection – Levi has always had the ability to create powerful emotional connections to its customer base. Without that emotional connection, market imperatives like loyalty are impossible to create. Levi has been able to connect with their customers for decades. Through their combination of passionate commercials and philanthropy, the company has been able to forge and then protect relationships that exist across all gender, race, and religious lines. It is those relationships that keep people coming through the door.
Defy the Trends – Nothing is more tempting than jumping onto current trends and fads. Unfortunately, many companies that do just that often find the wave of change crashing down beneath them. There is a big difference between continually striving for innovation and progress and abandoning your basic beliefs and values. Levi has managed to remain relevant in an ever-changing market while still holding on to that which got them to the top in the first place. Companies that know who they are and what they stand for are the ones that enjoy the greatest success and longevity.
A quick look at some key events in the life of Levi Strauss & Co. reveals more insight into exactly what makes the company so great.
- 1873 Levi obtained a US Patent on the process of putting rivets in men’s working pants and the first blue jean was born.
- 1934 To appeal to both sides of the gender line, Levi releases the first jean for women. Companies that had previously ignored the female gender, quickly followed suit.
- 1941 Levi jeans and jackets were used overseas during WWII, giving the company its first international exposure.
- 1952 The company formed the Levi Strauss Foundation and their immense charitable pursuits began. Levi gained respect both within the industry and beyond, and became the company to emulate in terms of its philanthropic efforts.
- 1983 Levi opened its first international store in Spain. Within eight years, the company would have 527 stores in Europe.
- 2010 Levi established its “Water<Less” collection, which uses up to 96% less water during production. Once again, the company set the standard to which other companies strove to emulate.
- 2013 On the same lines, Levi created its “Waste<Less” collection, made using recycled PET plastic bottles in jeans and other products.
As you can see, Levi’s success is the result of two primary focuses: quality, innovative products and an unwavering commitment to society and the environment. Both sides of the coin helped the company become both wildly successful and immensely respected – for over sixteen decades.