Brand: Dockers Authentics
Year: Fall/Winter 1993
Models: Ray Brown, Martin Ferries and ?
THE MEDIA BUSINESS -- ADVERTISING; Levi's Tailors Dockers to New Market
By Stuart Elliott
Published: January 14, 1993
LEVI STRAUSS & COMPANY built Dockers into one of the apparel industry's most successful new brands -- indeed, one of the most successful new brands of any kind of the 1980's -- by selling men casual clothing to supplant store-brand or no-name pants and shirts in their wardrobes.
Now, the company is embarking on ambitious plans to expand Dockers into a market where rivals go by famous names like Ralph, Calvin, Tommy and Banana.
Beginning in July, Levi Strauss will introduce Dockers Authentics, a collection of so-called American classic sportswear priced between Dockers and men's apparel from designers like Ralph Lauren (Polo), Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, or from retailers like Banana Republic.
It is estimated that Dockers Authentics might reach perhaps 10 percent of the total annual retail sales of men's Dockers, which surged to a record $1.5 billion in 1992, just six years after introduction. To would-be buyers -- men aged 21 to 35, rather than the 25-to-49-year-olds who wear Dockers -- Levi Strauss is eager to convey that Dockers Authentics, which will cost 5 to 10 percent more than its forerunner, is meant as a premium version of Dockers, in the same way that Mercury is a premium Ford. So the apparel giant will use better fabrics, sell the line only in department stores and promote it separately as "Something new that's been there all along."
"There are a lot of consumers out there who want a slightly better look and more style," Robert Hanson, marketing director for the menswear division at Levi Strauss, said during an interview at the company's showroom in midtown Manhattan. Visitors could view a prototype Dockers Authentics display, reminiscent of a Polo department minus the ponies.
The decision to develop another line bearing the Dockers name, aimed at a different market, is emblematic of two widespread trends in consumer-product marketing. One is called line extensions, devising variations of a best-selling product; among notable examples are the new Crystal Pepsi soft drink and Tartar Control Crest toothpaste.
The other is niche marketing or market segmentation, which, inelegantly put, slices a nice fat bologna into increasingly thinner pieces in hopes of satisfying additional appetites. Levi Strauss is a master at that; basic Levi's jeans begat a closet full of denims for younger, older, fashion-conscious and fad-oriented consumers.
"Dockers Authentics is really a new segment of the Dockers business," said Robert C. Siegel, president of the menswear division, "that we believe has some real growth opportunities for us."
Estimated total annual retail sales of Dockers, including the women's and children's lines and related merchandise like shoes, has grown to exceed $1.8 billion, out of total Levi Strauss sales of around $4.9 billion. Still, the company confronts a daunting task in introducing a fancier line under that name.
"Dockers has been a roaring success with guys who are fat and 40," said Alan Millstein, editor and publisher of the Fashion Network Report newsletter in New York.
But the concept of trying to capture a young men's customer, extending the Dockers name to another generation of consumers, is wishing upon a star," he added. The primary problem, he continued, was the intention to sell Dockers Authentics through department stores. "The 17-to-35-year-old men in this country are mall rats," he asserted, favoring specialty stores like Banana Republic, the Gap and Merry-Go-Round because "they perceive the department store as a place where their mothers go to buy career clothes and their grandmothers go to have a cup of tea."
Mr. Millstein believes that Dockers Authentics might fare well among the typical female department-store shopper, who often purchases clothing for the men in her life.
Mr. Siegel and Mr. Hanson are, of course, more sanguine about selling men Dockers Authentics in department stores owned by retailers like Dayton Hudson, Federated and May. Those chains "making a concerted effort to turn their business around," Mr.Hanson said, by offering consumers "specialty-store-like service" will attract the more sophisticated male shoppers of the 1990's.
The elaborate introductory campaign for Dockers Authentics will come from Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco, the longtime Levi Strauss agency that is involved in everything from producing outdoor signs to designing garment hang tags.
Jack Rooney, senior vice president and group management supervisor, said that print advertisements were being considered for August issues of magazines like GQ, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, compared with the regular Dockers ad outlets like People.
The ad budget was estimated at $4 million to $5 million, versus an annual Dockers ad budget of $20 million to $25 million.
Rather than the formal portraits rife in men's sportswear advertising, Mr. Rooney said, his ads will take a looser, more humorous tack.
"Polo does a fabulous job," he added, "but we don't want to play on their playing field."
Year: Spring/Summer 1994
Models: Walter Schupfer, Rick Arango and Michael Ostheim