With a starting lineup consisting of Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Big Sean, Puma was almost guaranteed to make a big impression in 2017. However, the effort was four years in the making.
After Björn Gulden took the reins as Puma CEO in mid-2013, he and Adam Petrick, global director of brand and marketing, sought to regain clarity on the label’s then-hazy focus. “We said, ‘We need to define who we are and who are we going after,’” said Petrick. Thus was born the mantra “Forever Faster,” a rallying cry whose deeper meaning was simple: Never stop being better. The two-word concept became a blueprint for Puma’s internal team to work in a more streamlined manner.
“We [needed] to be more efficient, make decisions faster, solve problems faster [and] be on-trend faster,” said Petrick. While the idea infiltrated the organization, it simultaneously blossomed in its external approach. Puma set its ego aside in lieu of personalities and ideas that represented its audience, such as partnering with pop sensation The Weeknd to debut his signature XO collection this fall.
“We said to people like Rihanna or The Weeknd, ‘Talk to us about what you’re interested in, and let’s find a way to do that,’” explained Petrick. “It’s no longer about us as a brand saying, ‘We know what’s cool.’ It’s about listening to our audience and seeing what’s going on out in culture and responding to it.”
As part of that effort, Puma dove headfirst into unraveling the nuances of its self-described “Generation Hustle” audience. A poster child for that group might be Puma partner Cara Delevingne, who is equal parts fashion model and girl next door. Her social media presence speaks directly to today’s young, conscientious consumers.
Delevingne explained to FN why she likes working with the brand: “They’re genuine and have real perspective. The campaign I work with them on doesn’t just speak to the shoes but also tackles a bigger cause, and that makes for a pretty incredible brand.”
In fact, bringing the female consumer further into the conversation has been vital to Puma’s efforts. For one, its continuing partnership with Rihanna and her Fenty Puma line was hugely successful once again this year. Puma also scored a win with its collaboration with designer Sophia Webster, which protected Webster’s whimsical aesthetic while speaking to the athletic brand’s sport core. And best of all: It quickly sold out in stores.
Proof that the brand’s cultural push is working can be found in the numbers. According to social intelligence firm Shareablee, Puma increased its social media audience (across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) by a hefty 23 percent year-over-year, growing to 23.7 million followers as of Q3, from 19.3 million.
Dick Johnson, chairman, president and CEO of Foot Locker Inc., has witnessed the transition firsthand. “They have the sports DNA, but they have embraced that Puma is a lifestyle brand that the consumer wants for lifestyle purposes,” he said. “It’s not about the sweat and toil of the sport, necessarily; it’s about the lifestyle that that sport represents.”
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