My regular mall stroll and I all of a sudden found the levis signature showroom replaced by denizen. Soon I realized that atleast in Bangalore where they are test marketing Denizen, they had replaced signature stores with Denizen. What a relief. Finally the brand unmurders itself.
One of the most iconic brands of all times, levis had done something very successfully that most brands would like to emulate. They brought out the same sense of joy that they used to bring when my father shopped for his jeans. A lot of ‘yester year’ brands have just been that – Fathers Era Brands. They find it difficult to wriggle out to the new generation and gain the same sort of perception.
Levis had been as aspirational for me and you, as to our dads. The red tag that you proudly carried along was aspirational. Everyone wanted a jean. And jeans was only levis. As water is only bisleri.
However in my post, david and goliath, I had mentioned that global corporations need to take a different stratagem for India as it is not a monolithic market, the forces affecting consumer decision is not the same as others. Levis unfortunately fell into the ‘Middle Class India’ trap and ended up over extending their positioning base with Levis Strauss Signature, that catered to the lower end consumers who aspired for a Levis but could not afford one. And then there were the Fakes. Anything with two legs could get a levis tag on their jeans. Soon you saw the red Levis ® tag behind every ass, lovely or not.
Levis contributed to its share of woes by diluting its image with Levis Strauss Signature.
Levis was slowly self-poisoning itself by launching Signature. Signature served two purposes, I could own an original levis and get it cheap too. Soon the denim youth, after buying a couple of pair of Levis signature, got it subconsciously registered that a levis jeans can be bought cheap and commands a price of not more than, say, Rs 1000. Cost for the Indian youth is a big consideration as most of them are dependent on their family for pocket money and the decision to buy a jeans is an outcome of countless hours of inkling and maneuver with the head of the family. Now someone who did not think anything before buying a Rs 1500 jeans, now had another stimuli in his mind. A levis, although signature, at Rs 1000. This eroded the brand premium somewhere. and as we all know it is the premium that you add to a commodity that makes it a brand. Levis was slowly becoming a commodity from a Brand.
Add to all this that most of the youth bought their pair of jeans when there was a heavy discount season during diwali or new years or so and would get the same Levis at Rs 500 and thereabouts. Then add to it, also the perpetration of Discount stores and family outlets that landed you a pair of jeans for Rs 800 and two for Rs 1000! All this diminished the perception that the great brand always commanded.
A classic case where monetarily you are gaining but qualitatively your perception is getting hammered and nailed. In short, Marketing Myopia.
However, they realized the mistake soon enough. Soon you found out that Levis Jeans were becoming more expensive. This was a deliberate attempt to break away from the Rs 1000-Rs 1500 price band image that levis had been garnering. The price rise was maintained even when the economy was going through a recession.
Launching a new brand denizen,priced between Rs 799-1399, is a commendable effort to undo what signature did for Levis. Whatever happens to denizen the erosion of brand value of Levis would be considerably lesser. Meanwhile Levis should continue to create a niche for itself and make it aspirational again.
Levis launched its curve id jeans earlier last month and has been successful in an attempt to create another niche for which people would have to pay a premium.
It is absolutely fantastic to see how, eventhough, with a few mistakes here and there, the brand remains to be edgy and still be classic at the same time.
Kindly Note that as an entity Signature, after it was spun off as stand alone stores, were a profitable venture and contributed almost close to 30% of its revenues. However, a Signature by Levis would have been much better than Levis Strauss Signature. Denizen is on the right tracks as far as branding goes.