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Levi’s Takes the Consumer Approach

Paul Friedland said it’s imperative for marketers to ask the five “Ws” and “how” when it comes to understanding their consumer.

PAUL FRIEDLAND, LEVI STRAUSS & CO.

Paul Friedland, director, marketing, at Levi Strauss & Co., is a strong believer that great brands are maniacally focused on the consumer.

Friedland, a 10-year Levi’s veteran who has also worked for such brands as Coca-Cola, Guinness and Smirnoff, said it’s imperative for marketers to ask the five “Ws” and “how” when it comes to understanding their consumer.

Speaking at the WWD Digital Forum in L.A., he outlined each of the questions as follows:

• “Who is your customer?” Marketing executives need to understand who their customer is today and tomorrow and who their competitors’ customers are, he said. Friedland showed a slide of the 141-year-old Levi’s broad demographics, ranging from a misses’ customer running through Los Angeles International Airport with two kids to an urban consumer, skate and action consumer, and a juniors consumer in her 501 cutoff shorts. He said Levi’s, which has successfully navigated the media landscape as it moved from print to radio to TV and now digital, understands its customer by segment and product and is able to target him or her. “It’s not always an easy thing when you’re a democratic and inclusive brand,” he said.

• “What do they want?” It’s important to know what your consumer loves and what upsets them. With social media being so complex, “You set the guardrails for your brand and your position, and you have to let your consumer fill in the blanks,” he said. He said that Levi’s uses Facebook mostly for promotional material. It has 21 million fans, which is growing and is a conservative group. He said the company’s Twitter audience comprises “the most engaged, loyal and most passionate fans.” With Twitter, Levi’s adds more newness and takes more risks.

• “Where is your consumer?” One needs to know if they’re a local customer, a global customer; are they in your shop, walking on the street or sitting with a tablet on the couch, he said.

• “When is the right time to engage with your consumer? And when is the wrong time to engage with your consumer?” He recalled taking his young son, Brody, to a San Francisco Giants game. After his son ate nonstop for seven straight innings — nachos, french fries, pizza, cotton candy and a cupcake — they left the game. Ten minutes after they left the game, he got a notification from the Giants with video clips and highlights of the game, as well as a coupon for 10 percent off food, tickets and Giants gear, all good within the next 72 hours. “The fact that they put all that together and sent it out 10 minutes after the game was phenomenal,” he said.

• “Why should your consumer care?” He said that’s the most important question of all. Friedland recalled that he once presented a marketing model to his boss, who asked, if he were the consumer, why should he care? “That’s a really good question, and fortunately I had a pretty good answer to most of that.”

• Last is how. “How do you bring this all together, especially within the landscape of digital, which is so complicated, constantly moving, very fluid, very dynamic, where your fans have so much influence?” he said. A great example is Sephora. “I personally don’t think anybody does it better.” He said the beauty retailer’s mobile, tablet, in-store and desktop are seamless. “They know who you are, what you bought the last time.…These guys have done a phenomenally good job of understanding how you bring it all together,” said Friedland.