Inspiring the Organisation to Act:
A Business in Denial

Flemming Thygesen,
Levi Strauss Europe
Paul McGowan,
Added Value

From the day Nick Kamen walked into a laundrette in 1985 through to the mid 90s, Levi Strauss & Co enjoyed unprecedented growth year after year, stimulated by the Original Jeans ad campaign, one of the best ad campaigns every tracked by Millward Brown.

Throughout this period the sole focus was on how to make 501 jeans look fresh and exciting every six months in the next ad campaign. Increasingly, the Levis brand became synonymous with the 501 jeans for (initially) good and for (increasingly) worse, as the steam began to go out of both the product and the brand.

As a company, Levi Strauss settled comfortably into a work style where double digit growth on an annual basis became accepted as a natural state of affairs. Beating the sales plan was normal. Consumer insight was the exclusive domain of a handful of designers, and product innovation was essentially expressed through new ways of communicating 501 jeans which represented in excess of 60% of all sales in bottoms. Increasingly, we allowed our focus to wander away from consumers and the market place to internal supply chain issues and how to better reward ourselves for the great work we were achieving remember the one year extra salary all Levi Strauss employees were to receive some time around now? Well.. needless to say, that never actually materialised.