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What Levi’s is Doing Better Than Any Other US Apparel Brand

If retailers want to get consumers and their dollars back, they’re going to have to get in touch with their emotions.

The role emotion plays in brands’ business decisions is underleveraged, misunderstood and not measured enough, MBLM Brand Agency said in its 2017 report on Brand Intimacy.

Acknowledging that 90 percent of all decisions are made based on emotion, brands need to shift the way they are created, promoted and managed to offer a different kind of attention to the consumer.

“If focusing more on the customer seems like an obvious strategy for success, then consider brand intimacy to be a new paradigm around the science of the emotional bonds we form with the brands we use or can’t live without,” MBLM managing partner Mario Natarelli said.

The problem with apparel retailers is that none of them really seem to be getting this right. Not one apparel-focused retailer made MBLM’s list of the top 10 most intimate brands of 2017 (Apple, Disney and Amazon took the top three spots).

Out of 15 industries, retail ranked third after automotive and media/entertainment in terms of its brand intimacy and apparel came in seventh place.

Levi’s took the top spot among apparel brands when it comes to intimacy, followed by Nike, Lululemon, Under Armour, Adidas, Victoria’s Secret, The North Face, Ralph Lauren, Gap and Puma. Each of these brands has a following—a fan base even, and it has a lot to do with emotional engagement.

According to MBLM, Levi’s strongest association is related to nostalgia and the brand is doing better than any other in apparel at fusing with customers.

What’s perhaps of note, more than half of the most intimate brands are athletic related, which falls right in line with the athleisure trend and reiterates that it’s more than a fad.

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Only 24 percent of shoppers surveyed said they are intimate with brands in the apparel category.

“Brands that you wear are intimate by nature, yet this industry is falling short on its potential,” Natarelli said. “This may be because of a variety of factors from shifts in the way we shop to generational orientations and out-of-reach messages. However, we firmly believe there is room for the industry to build stronger emotional connections with consumers.”

MBLM offered four key reasons why the apparel industry is failing at intimacy: 1) apparel brands have become less relatable, what was once inspirational advertising, today are out-of-touch with most people and unbelievable; 2) brands are pivoting to aligning with celebrities and pop culture figures, shifting away from a tradition of linking to athletes; 3) shopping experiences are less intimate with the rise of e-commerce making it easier to shop for brands via multiple platforms; 4) there’s a shift in millennials’ behavior as many are being drawn to superior service and web-based stores.

Apparel brands will have to look to the success of players outside the sector—like Apple and Netflix and Whole Foods, which also made the overall top 10 most intimate brands list—to find ways to get closer with consumers.

Findings from this year’s study point to consumers’ desire to escape, and brands that help them disconnect and retreat, or at least feel a sense of that, are gaining popularity.

“Whether it’s due to political fallout, an increasingly complex and scary world or growing economic concerns, brands offering simple escape pleasures dominate. Relatedly, consumers seem more cautious about making large purchases or spending more this year,” the report explained. “The willingness to pay 20 percent more for products and services from their favorite brands is down, suggesting a more cautious and conservative outlook in terms of spending.”