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Dear Levi's. Please practice. Don't preach

Posted by: Helen Walters on December 31, 2009

Levi’s added a line to the washing instructions on jeans urging wearers to “donate to Goodwill when no longer needed and care for our planet.” This, writes Silas Amos of British design/branding agency JKR in an entertaining and thought-provoking round-up of the work and ideas of 2009, is bunk. “Wasn’t the whole point of Levi’s to wear them until they fell apart?” he writes. “The communication used to be that they got better as they got older, and giving them up was only possible when they were truly past physical redemption.” Perhaps, posits Amos, the pressures of the quickly turning over fashion cycle have caused the branders at Levi’s to rethink the wisdom of this strategy and “the shelf life of a pair is now only as long as a passing fashion for a particular cut.” It raises an interesting question of how a heritage brand such as Levi’s evolves its messaging both to fit the current times and be true to its past. What do you think? Misstep or reasonable evolution?

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Reader Comments


December 31, 2009 11:42 AM

Are we really that cynical? I do not believe Levi's is disconnecting itself from it's heritage philosophy that Levi's can be worn til they fall apart, rather reinforcing but simply acknowledging the disposal nature of society today. They went on the record with their traditions of ecology and charity -- rather than let your Levi's sit in a clost unworn and unloved, why not share with someone in need, and save them from the garbage heap.

In regards to philanthropy, Levi Strauss' philanthropic efforts go back to the beginning when he supported numerous charitable efforts including scholarships at Cal Berkley, protecting children, and aiding during the Chicago Fire. In my opionion, this recent effort is an iconic company 'walking their talk.'


January 2, 2010 10:52 AM

I agree, I do not think this hurts the brand in the least bit. Understand the very few people who read the messages on the tags, already know what to do with their old jeans and not to mention that I don't consider Levi's to have any significance brand wise. No one brags about the Levi's they've had for years.

If anything it is more respectable to have a message as such because it is important to recycle our clothing just like anything else. Especially Jeans that do last a long time and use a lot of materials. There are use for them once they are done being warn, no matter what brand it is.


January 3, 2010 05:02 PM

agree completely with the responses here. Levi's has a remarkable philanthropic history. While they haven't done everything perfectly, they are among the best corporate citizens on the planet.

Levi's appears to be working on their environmental responsibility, so why not begin promoting it??

Silas Amos should do his homework - and buy a pair of STF 501s. He would take back his comments, I am certain...

Silas Amos

January 4, 2010 04:33 AM

Just to clarify, my point was not that passing on old jeans to charity was a bad idea (who could argue with such a notion?) Rather it was that the message was one of four equally reasonable suggestions on the Levis label, all of which seemed to put the responsibility on the consumer rather than the brand. I didn't describe the initative as "bunk" but it did make me wonder if Levis was offering the same level of commitment that its common sense suggestions asked of the wearer. The answer seems to be yes:
However, with so much “greenwash” about, one does indeed become cynical of corporate messaging - perhaps if the Levis labels featured some information about their own behaviour at equal prominence to their suggestions for consumers then such a call to action might carry more weight to those who don’t “do their homework”? However, on reflection, the idea of passing on discarded jeans dramatisises the durability and longevity of the product as well if not better than if they only have one owner.


January 9, 2010 04:53 AM

Sharp observation I have to say. The message on goodwill is in contradictory with their heritage.

To me it seems they have not thought about it very well. Too many brands want to 'show off' with their eco-minds.

There are other ways for Levi's to be eco/ charity friendly without sending conflicting messages on their brand heritage.

priyanka gupta

January 11, 2010 08:04 AM

I would like to say these are some valid points and by adding this extra line Levi's is surely helping to increase consiousness about the need to donate to goodwill and take any small action which we can to help 'save planet Earth'. A small drop but none the less adds to the ocean..
This will be extra nice as a large proportion of customer base for Levi's here in India is in the 15-24 age group - the movers and shakers of the future.


January 12, 2010 10:07 AM

Mega-brands, micro-brands, every brand: stop preaching to me! Helen, I applaud your observation.

If smart branding is taking every touch point and communicating something engaging and differentiating: then Helen you are right: Levi's et al, don't wag your finger at me with your tired, over-used do-good-isms.

Put on that care instructions label: "Wear until unwearable." "Wear until it is a shredded denim grass skirt" "Wear until parts of your body are exposed that you don't want exposed" "Wear until people are embarrassed to go out with you" "Wear until Goodwill says 'No thanks, we won't except that.'"

And if you want to be technical, if you don't dispose of and re-purchase new products every season THAT has the least impact re: energy and resource consumption etc. But it also doesn't pump as much $ in the economy, less jobs etc...

C.C. Chapman

January 14, 2010 11:14 AM

Are you kidding me? This isn't about branding or heritage. This is about good will.

I applaud Levi for doing a little bit to help raise awareness. Granted it is a TINY thing and I wish they'd actually do more, but I am still happy they did it.

Too many people throw away clothes when they are done with them for whatever reason. Yes, Levi jeans last forever, but if for whatever reason someone doesn't want them anymore then perhaps this will help nudge them in the right direction to donate the clothes.

wallamboklang Rynjah

January 19, 2010 04:12 PM

I totally agree with the responses on the philantrophic nature of the company I also agree with staggs that it doesn't hurt the brand. Truly these are valid points.

There are millions of irresponsible and brand conscious buyers around the world with high income at their disposal. Do you think they even care to think of donating to goodwill.. I'm really glad the Levi's is showing the way.

Think about this... The company introduced its so-called ‘terms of engagement’, a code of conduct for its employees, suppliers and contractors. This details Levi’s expectations of workplace conditions, including the prevention of child labour, and the promotion of the health and safety of workers.

The cost for Levi's went up 50 cents a pair of jeans. Those days they were making 400 million pairs of jeans according to John Anderson, President and CEO of jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co.

But from the top down, the company said they’re going to do it, they’re going to take a leap of starts because they believe the industry will follow them.

And guess what? Ninety per cent of the industry today is working with Levi's after they implemented that. And Levi's survived just fine..

Sean G.

January 21, 2010 05:52 PM

I think it would be better for Levi's to emphasize the help donating clothes to Goodwill gives to humanity rather than to the environment. It makes the message more personal especially since it is an article of clothing.

I do not think that it is contradictory to their long time message of wearing a pair of Levi's until they basically fall apart. If anything, donating the jeans to another person places greater emphasis on their durability and life-span. So, in that respect it reinforces their messaging.

Also, while the message puts the 'good deed' in the hands of the owner rather than the seller, just seeing this message on the tag of the jeans tells consumers that Levi's cares about these types of issues and is likely participating in the cause in more ways than seen here.

A small message like this has the potential to do a lot for a brand's image.


January 23, 2010 11:58 AM

I think that is a neat suggestion. It is like a p.s. at the end of a letter or note.


March 3, 2010 09:11 AM

Why doesn't Levi suggest donating other brands of jeans?


March 23, 2010 01:21 AM

I agree, I do not think this hurts the brand in the least bit. Understand the very few people who read the messages on the tags, already know what to do with their old jeans and not to mention that I don't consider Levi's to have any significance brand wise. No one brags about the Levi's they've had for years.

Arie Opps

March 24, 2010 03:54 PM

This is good for Goodwill. Not so great for Levi's brand.
Why would anyone want to give away their Levi's?

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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