For the longest time, you might not have seen Puma’s leaping wild cat sprawled across a billboard or a TV ad. Instead, you must have caught glimpses of Virat Kohli wearing a Puma t-shirt and hosting intimate Instagram Lives with fellow athletes.
This, Puma’s marketing head Shreya Sachdev says, was deliberately done. “We realised 4-5 years ago that our consumer was moving online and shifted to a digital-first strategy, even from an ROI (return on investment) point of view,” she adds. When the pandemic hit its offline activities, Puma went from primarily digital to only digital, well prepared.
The brand realised that to create an impact, it had to think about what the consumer wanted to hear rather than what they had to say. This has also been the cornerstone of its digital strategy – to give the consumers unique and relatable content, says Sachdev. Puma saw more than 70% growth in average reach to unique users, and over 90% rise in average engagement rates across its social media handles during the pandemic.
By being topical and relevant, Puma has managed to make a lot of noise. Right from Kohli taking Instagram by storm after interviewing the likes of Pep Guardiola, KL Rahul, Sunil Chhetri and Mary Kom to getting Usain Bolt to do his signature pose wearing the jersey of Royal Challengers Bangalore that it had tied up with during the latest IPL season and releasing the team’s short behind-the-scenes videos. Many instances from the interviews and BTS (behind-the-scenes) content, which offered a window into the players’ lives, went viral and received major media traction. Even the photoshoot with a heavily pregnant Kareena Kapoor Khan doing yoga started conversations around breaking the stereotypical idea of pregnancy.
“We know how to convert a content piece into a news story. With your own content, you would only reach your own captive audience. Creating newsworthy content that gets organic sections on platforms that are not your own also becomes extremely critical,” says Sachdev.
Moving to tech, Puma recently released Nitro, a range of four high-tech running shoes, and decided to not take the normal route of releasing drab explainer videos. It roped in brand ambassador Kohli again, but this time as a chatbot. The brand worked with Facebook and Amplify.ai to create a chatbot with Kohli talking to consumers on Facebook Messenger, asking questions and suggesting shoes. The result? 1.2 million conversations in 15 days.
“We were shocked by the number of people who completed the questionnaire and actually went to puma.com. Our customers needed help to pick the right shoe and not just information about the tech. Also, getting Virat to help you find it is a super interesting clout, right?” says Sachdev.
While brand strategy specialist Harish Bijoor admits what Puma is doing with their digital content is working for them, he feels that it isn’t enough to set them apart. “Despite the fact that it’s all digital, people also consume other things. Intelligence lies in coming up with a multimedia strategy for a campaign. Pure digital alone doesn’t work because people are physical, real human beings,” says Bijoor. “There is much more to life than only digital and brands will realise that,” he adds.