Not only is Levi’s retooling its signature button-fly 501 into the same fit for all consumers worldwide, but also will the jeans company launch a global marketing campaign, with one global slogan: “Live Unbuttoned”. It is the first integrated global campaign and the biggest marketing program the brand has ever undertaken. Levi Strauss CEO John Anderson told the Wall Street Journal that the company is going with both a global fit and global campaign because it believes straight-leg jeans are a global fashion trend, and now is the time to establish the 501 as the obvious option for shoppers around the world. Nevertheless, the financial aspects are relevant: it is simply cheaper to produce, sell and market one kind of jeans than dozens of varieties.

However, the ultimate jeans brand faces challenges with its global approach. People in different parts of the world have different shapes and preferences. Levi Strauss says the fabric on the jeans is designed to mold to the wearer’s body, regardless of body shape, which will help to account for differences in body type. The company also says it will continue to tailor the sizes offered to different parts of the world.

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And the other challenge; some cultures might not appreciate a campaign called “Live Unbuttoned”, nor the content of it. One TV ad -for example- shows a young man and woman exchanging flirtatious glances as they unbutton their 501s. Ultimately, they both pull down their jeans and, holding hands, leap off a pier into the ocean. The final shot shows them kissing underwater as the words “501” and “Live Unbuttoned” appear.

The stakes are high for Levi Strauss, whose sales peaked at $7.1 billion in 1996 before sliding for eight years while the company missed trends like premium denim and generally failed to respond quickly to changing consumer tastes among young people. Net sales rose 4% to $4.4 billion in 2007, when positive currency effects are included. They fell 8% in the second quarter of this year amid problems related to implementing a new software system designed to boost efficiency.

Photo: Levi Strauss & Co (Levi’s 501 for men)