NEW YORK: Successfully balancing the old and the new has helped Levi Strauss turn around an erratic financial performance, according to the apparel brand’s chief executive officer.

Alongside product innovation and a push into women’s clothing and omnichannel retailing, marketing has focused on finding “the right balance between highlighting our heritage and being contemporary,” Chip Bergh wrote in the July-August issue of the Harvard Business Review.

“If a seasoned brand dwells too much on its history, it can feel old and dusty,” he said. “But if you disregard your history, you’re walking away from one of your strongest assets.”

As an example, he cited the brand’s trucker jacket, now 50 years old but which incorporated wearable technology in a recent version in order to enable the wearer to control their iPhone from the jacket sleeve.

“Sales of all Levi’s trucker jackets jumped nearly 40% last year,” he reported, “which shows that today’s consumers are looking for authenticity and want a brand that stands for something—as ours does.”

These claims appears substantiated by research from youth marketing agency Ypulse, which has found Levi’s to be the second-most authentic fashion brand among 13-36 year olds.

“After 165 years in business—and perhaps because of that long history—Levi’s is still perceived among teens, 20- and 30-somethings as true to itself,” Bobby Calise, vice president of Ybrands, the youth brand tracking arm of Ypulse, told MediaPost’s Marketing Daily.

“Even Nike [the “coolest” fashion brand] could learn something from Levi's when it comes to authenticity,” he added.

Relevance, too, is essential, and one of Bergh’s biggest bets was the 2013 decision to invest in a 20-year, $220m deal to acquire the naming rights to the new stadium of the San Francisco 49ers.

“The people who attend concerts and NFL games are Levi’s core customers, so this … put our brand back at the center of the cultural conversation,” he explained.

Sourced from Harvard Business Review, MediaPost; additional content by WARC staff