If you are a millennial, you may not know what Lee jeans are. But your parents probably each owned a pair: Dad’s were roomy in the thighs, while mom’s had a super high waist.
This is the challenge Lee is facing right now. Younger consumers are unlikely to have heard of the brand, while people over a certain age remember it as a relic of the ’80s and ’90s, according to Kim Yates, vp of marketing for Lee.
“So we need to reinvent the brand. This year my first priority is to communicate with our consumers on a 360-degree basis,” said Yates. “We are not just mom jeans. We have introduced stretch and slimming jeans, for example.”
The first step of the brand refresh, she explained, is to “cut through the clutter and get consumers’ attention.” So this week the company is rolling out a rebranding campaign called “Move Your Lee” from agency GSD&M, to show that people — especially millennials — can do whatever they like in their Lee jeans. It includes a new TV commercial, 12 online video clips, a new in-store experience and PR support by Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
The brand reboot comes with two new cheeky, millennial-friendly brand ambassadors — the “Lee Man” and the “Lee Woman.” In one spot, the “Lee Man,” a sort of watered down Old Spice guy, crushes his company meeting with a parachute landing and just as abruptly leaves to have fun. He skis on the couch with a virtual reality headset and destroys a piñata with a single high kick. Then he goes home to work while on a treadmill.
“His Lees aren’t just jeans to him. They are freedom pants,” says the voiceover. “Every little fiber is just cheering him on.”
The campaign depicts the “Lee Woman” in a similarly silly way in a series of shorter videos. She paddles a swan boat while sipping a cocktail; she tries to do yoga but can hardly balance herself.
“I think lots of fashion brands are taking themselves too seriously,” said Alisa Wixom, group creative director for GSD&M. “We want to highlight the can-do spirit of Lee but at the same time, we want people to have fun.”
As part of “Move Your Lee,” the company has designed new fit guides as well as rebranded its signage and logo at shopping malls like Macy’s. It’s also in the process of revamping its website. So far Lee has updated the look of the site to be consistent with the campaign. In the future, the brand will put more information like clothing tips on the site so it can become a content hub for Lee’s consumers and partners, said Yates.
Lee’s brand refresh also comes with a new fall line, including a style that looks like a skinny jean on the outside but feels like a yoga pant inside.
The personalized denim look — patches, embroidery and pins — is in, so retailers like Lord & Taylor, Alexander McQueen and Alice + Olivia are all offering denim outfits, according to WWD. But Yates doesn’t worry about these competitors.
“People love jeans and they are always going to. Today they have more choices like leggings and khakis and I do worry about that,” she said. “But in terms of denim per se, there are only a handful of manufacturers that can make great jeans.”