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Levi Strauss And Social Media: A Perfect Fit

Clothing maker, the No. 2 company in our 2011 InformationWeek 500 ranking, is leveraging Facebook and other media to build its brand and reach more customers.

After inventing blue jeans in 1873, Levi Strauss could have rested on its laurels. Instead, the apparel maker is extending its tradition of innovation to social media, earning it the No. 2 spot in our 2011 InformationWeek 500.

When CIO Tom Peck says the company's social media strategy is about more than marketing, it's about redefining how the business relates to its customers, he can back that statement up: Levi Strauss was the first major retailer to add Facebook's "Like" button to its commerce site, and it created the first Facebook-oriented social shopping experience, the Levi's Friends Store. There, customers can share "Likes" and purchases through their Facebook networks, possibly influencing friends' buying decisions.

Levi Strauss's partnership with Facebook has translated into brand value. Over the past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, more than half of all visitor traffic to came from the company's Facebook page, which now gets more than 1 million visits every month. Today, it has more than 6.2 million "Likes" or followers on its Facebook page, Peck says, adding: "We understand the power and influence that friends and family can have."

Super Bowl Success

We've all heard horror stories about companies that fell victim to their own ad campaigns gone viral. Not Levi Strauss. The company introduced its "Men Without Pants" TV commercial for its Dockers brand during the 2010 Super Bowl broadcast, watched by some 53 million households. Backed by Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, its site handled more traffic in the nine days following the Super Bowl ad than it did in six months the previous year.

The campaign, which involved some 13 technology and advertising vendors and seven in-house groups, generated thousands of page views per second to its Web site and hundreds of hits per minute to its mobile apps, and enticed some 630,000 people to participate in a promotion. The Dockers Facebook fan base surged by a factor of 11, and email lead generation increased 250% through promotion registrations.

Top 10 IT Innovators: InformationWeek 500
Top 10 IT Innovators: InformationWeek 500
(click image for slideshow)

Remember we mentioned not resting on laurels? Even before the Dockers success, the company had launched Levi's Curve ID, a collection of new jeans based on a woman's shape rather than size, and Digital Fitting Experience, to help customers select the best cut. In October, it introduced its Shape What's To Come global online community for young women. Both initiatives have been well received by female customers, boosting brand awareness and engagement through the Web, mobile applications, a Facebook application, and e-commerce partners.

Asked whether his company's experience with Facebook might lead it to branch out to the new Google+ social network, Peck was circumspect. "We try to be as agnostic as possible to brands and technologies so that we can go anywhere," he says. "But we want to be careful, too, that we don't get too aggressive, dilute our brand, and cannibalize our other channels. There's no prize out there for the person who has the most deals or the most social experiences."

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