Nothing can come between Americans and their 501s—not even potato chips and ice tea. Levi’s ousted household brands like Dove, Frito-Lay, Dollar Tree, Lowe’s, Lipton and Microsoft to rank No. 15 on market research company Morning Consultant’s 2018 Top 25 list of America’s Most Loved Brands.
The denim stalwart has a net favorability of 72—that’s 20 percent higher than its closest denim competitor, VF Corp.-owned Lee and Wrangler brands.
Tech giant Google and grocery store favorites Hershey and Pillsbury topped the list, which is based on more than 250,000 interviews with U.S. adults. The final rankings were determined using surveys conducted online. Between 2,500 and 50,000 adults rated each of the more than 1,000 companies from January through March 2018.
As the only apparel brand on the list, Levi’s proves to be a special case. More than half of men surveyed said they’re “absolutely certain” or “very likely to buy from Levi’s. However, that percentage drops to 45 percent among women.
As a heritage brand in a trend- and innovation-driven industry, Levi’s has some soul searching ahead of itself. “Public opinion on one of the country’s most iconic denim brands isn’t fading, but the company is still working on patching up some tears in its brand identity,” Morning Consultant wrote.
In an interview with Morning Consultant, Christian D. Bruun, the director of “Blue Gold: American Jeans” said referring to Levi’s, “For some reason, they’ve had a hard time finding their own identity. They were caught between a legacy and deciding to be fresh and cool.”
Case in point: The buzziest news about Levi’s in recent seasons present a contradiction. On one hand, vintage 501s are among the most sought after jeans wear products in the world, even for Levi’s itself. The company acquired a collection of 50,000-plus vintage Levi’s pieces last year and launched an Authorized Vintage line available at locations in New York and San Francisco. Meanwhile, the brand is speeding up its manufacturing by digitizing its finishing process, and recently introduced the first smart jean jacket at retail, the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google.
With one foot in the past and the other in the future, Adheer Bahulkar, lead partner of U.S. retail for the consultant firm A.T. Kearney Inc., told Morning Consultant that Levi’s will have to decide whether it wants to continue relying on its loyal base and play it safe with heritage models, or take more innovative risks to grow its U.S. market share.
Fortunately for Levi’s—and the denim industry as a whole—Americans are unlikely to give up their jeans anytime soon, even with the influx of stretchy knit alternatives. More than half of the respondents in the favorite brands survey said they wear denim on weekends, compared to 31 percent who said they can be found wearing athleisure. And 52 percent of the U.S. adult population said they wear jeans four or more days a week, including 22 percent who wear jeans every day. As the oldest American jeanswear company, Levi’s can be credited with establishing that loyalty.