Apples to oranges, er jeans: A Q&A with the new Levi's CMO

This week, Levi's new CMO Rebecca Van Dyck is transitioning from phones to jeans.

This week, Levi's new CMO Rebecca Van Dyck is transitioning from phones to jeans. During the time between her role as global marketing and communications lead at Apple and her new role at Levi's, she spoke with PRWeek about creating global consistency and the importance of the brand experience across industries. 

Like other retail brands, Levi's is looking to achieve global alignment in terms of structure, communication, and marketing. What does this mean for your marketing approach, and how will you ensure such consistency?

I first want to get into the seat, meet the team, figure out where our strengths are, and play to those strengths. Certainly the goal, and what I think I can bring, is this notion of creating a consistent brand experience around the world. That's what I've been doing in my current job, and I think there's a great opportunity for Levi's there.

What will be the challenges, especially for a brand steeped in American history and heritage?

This is my personal opinion and I'll reserve the right to change my opinion once I get there, but I do think I have some good experience in this area. I actually think that, drawing on my Apple experience, being an American brand is not a bad thing. It's not a good thing. It's who we are, who Levi's is. And I think that that heritage and those values need to come out in the work, product, retail experience, and marketing. So that's actually something to leverage.

How do you create something that's globally consistent but also local and regional, and through which marketing platforms?

I think it's at the message level, drawing on the heritage, core values, and having that seep out in everything. Message first, media second. In terms of the question about the media mix, that comes second to identifying those values. I'm sure the team knows this well, so I'm looking forward to diving in and working with them, pulling back some of the covers, getting at those values, and putting them out there.

How will you translate your Apple tech experience into your new role at Levi's?   

First and foremost Apple is a great consumer product and brand. I don't think of it as a technology company necessarily. My experience of building a consumer brand that is consistent and global is something that will really help benefit me in this new job. Certainly my understanding of technology, and how people consume content and media and information, is going to be a huge asset. I look forward to playing in that area.

How do you create the kind of buzz that Apple gets for a brand like Levi's?

One of the things I'm going to have to do when I get in the role is first come to peace with the differences between the two companies. So many things that Apple does - and it's been a joy to be a part of – don't translate and that's ok. A lot of the buzz is pent up demand with a new product that hadn't existed before. I'm not sure how that will translate to my new job, but I look forward to finding out.

What trend is impacting retail marketing that you think really has and will impact your approach or messaging?  

I think the retail experience - what happens when you walk into an Apple store - is a real benefit to the company and the brand. It isn't about selling. It's about experience and playing with the product. Levi's has some fantastic stores – this is just based on being a consumer – that also do this. There's definitely something there, to grow on, but it's not a new concept.

What's the role of PR in the marketing mix? 

It's such a valuable element but it can't live alone. It really works when all marketing tools work together. PR can play a great role in leading or seeding a role and then amplifying it.

Then who wins the digital business – i.e. the viral video account? Is it the PR, advertising, or specialized digital shop?

I don't know yet as it relates to Levi's. I've seen it handled different ways at different organizations. It really depends on the culture of the company but also on the strength of the agencies.

You think it could go either way?

Yes.

What's your take on CSR?

I'm looking forward to a strong history [of CSR] at Levi's. At Apple we do it very differently, and it's such a part of the history and heritage. I can't talk about the Apple strategies, but it's done differently.

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