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MARKETING CONTROVERSIES

Head of global marketing for Levi’s brand leaves amidst controversy

By our News Team | 2022

Jennifer Sey alleges she was pushed out because the company disagreed with her public stand on certain Covid-19 issues in US schools.

The most senior marketer at global clothing brand Levi’s has resigned in a blaze of controversial publicity, citing company pressure because of her stance on certain Covid-19 issues.

Jennifer Sey, who was Global Brand President for Levi’s, published a blog on Tuesday (15 February) headlined “Yesterday I Was Levi’s Brand President. I Quit So I Could Be Free”.

Ley then immediately goes on to claim that the company offered her US1-million in severance pay if she did not talk about the issue. It is an offer that she says she declined.

Her high-profile resignation, which is sure to send shockwaves through the global marketing and business communities, comes after over 20 years at Levi’s. She rose through the ranks from Assistant Marketing Manager to become Chief Marketing Officer and then Brand President in 2020.

Marketing Controversies

Photo by Atahan Demir from Pexels

“As the years passed, I saw the company through every trend. I was the Marketing Director for the US by the time skinny jeans had become the rage. I was the Chief Marketing Officer when high-waists came into vogue. I eventually became the Global Brand President in 2020 – the first woman to hold this post. (And somehow low-rise is back.),” she wrote.

Levi’s has ‘lost sight of its values’

According to Sey, she decided to leave because the company she loves “has lost sight of the values” that made people everywhere want to wear Levi’s.

At the heart of the clash between her and the business is a decision she made in 2020 to become a strong advocate for public schools to reopen without mask rules – a position that quickly attracted negative criticism from certain colleagues and others in the community, particularly in San Francisco where she is based.

“I wrote op-eds, appeared on local news shows, attended meetings with the mayor’s office, organised rallies and pleaded on social media to get the schools open. I was condemned for speaking out,” Sey says.

“In the summer of 2020, I finally got the call. ‘You know when you speak, you speak on behalf of the company’, our head of corporate communications told me, urging me to pipe down. I responded: ‘My title is not in my Twitter bio. I’m speaking as a public-school mom of four kids’.” 

Her blog continues: “But the calls kept coming. From legal. From HR. From a board member. And finally, from my boss, the CEO of the company. I explained why I felt so strongly about the issue, citing data on the safety of schools and the harms caused by virtual learning. While they didn’t try to muzzle me outright, I was told repeatedly to ‘think about what I was saying’.”

Sey concludes: “In the last month, the CEO told me that it was ‘untenable’ for me to stay. I was offered a $1-million severance package, but I knew I’d have to sign a nondisclosure agreement about why I’d been pushed out. 

“The money would be very nice. But I just can’t do it. Sorry, Levi’s.”

Read the full blog here https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/yesterday-i-was-levis-brand-president

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