New Levi's ad campaign echoes Arab Spring uprisings

Jeans company eyes under-30 market; "this campaign is about returning to pioneering spirit of brand. Today, optimism is power."

Jeans pants 311 (R) (photo credit: Albert Gea / Reuters)
Jeans pants 311 (R)
(photo credit: Albert Gea / Reuters)
BERLIN - Levi Strauss is echoing uprisings across the Arab world with a "Go Forth" campaign aimed at attracting youthful customers to a jeans brand that was once one of the most coveted in the world.
Fed up with high unemployment, rising food prices and repression, popular uprisings led mainly by young people overthrew governments in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. Libyan rebels are attempting to overthrow ruler Muammar Gaddafi, while protests and demonstrations have rocked governments in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and swept across other parts of North Africa and the Middle East.
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Robert Hanson, Global President of the Levi's brand, said the global marketing campaign was based on research done over the past year that showed young people felt that it was their duty to improve the world.
"We've always been about embodying the energy and events of our times and this campaign is about returning to the pioneering spirit of the brand," he told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday. "Today, optimism is power."
He said change in the Middle East has been enabled by borderless communication and the kind of young people that the Levi's brand would like to be embraced by.
"You've got young people showing up saying let's galvanize the power of our collective force, work hard to make the world a better place," Hanson said. "And what better brand than Levi's? We're doing a lot of innovative things in our products and stores to have them choose Levi's as the uniform of progress."
In the retail world, younger customers, particularly in countries such as the United States have become an important target market, with companies such as Adidas making a big push to gain high-school age customers who have a lot of money to spend on clothing.
"We're obviously interested in those in their late teens and twenties," Hanson said. "They buy a lot more jeans, are more into fashion and spend a lot more."
Privately held Levi Strauss & Co, which also owns the Dockers brand, has turnover of $4.4 billion and its clothing is sold in more than 110 countries.
Once able to propel unknown artists to the top of the charts by using their songs in its adverts, the Levi's brand now battles for market share with Wrangler and Lee, owned by VF Corp , and Guess along with a new wave of brands such as J Brand, Seven for all Mankind and Superfine.
"We've been working on transforming the brand over the last couple of years," Hanson said, saying the aim was to firmly position Levi's as an American classic brand.
Added to the increased competition is the rising cost of cotton, leaving the company in a dilemma over how to pass on increased material costs without putting off customers.
Hanson said the Levi's brand had implemented price rises but declined to comment on the possibility of more later in the year.
While excited by the growth opportunities offered by emerging markets such as Brazil, India, China, Mexico, Turkey and Russia, Hanson said Levi's was not pulling back from its traditional markets in the United States and Europe.
"We see opportunities to grow both emerging and developed markets," he said.