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Will Puma ‘pimp’ and get ‘horny’ for TV?

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Despite being a late entrant in the industry, Puma India, wanted to create a strong distribution foothold in India before embarking upon an aggressive advertising spree. For Puma India, ‘place’ has been one of the most important 4 Ps of its marketing mix. The fact that it has reached a milestone of having more than 200 outlets across 60 cities of India, TV still isn’t a part of its integrated campaign.

If Rajiv Mehta, MD, Puma South Asia & Asia, is to be believed, TV soon will be a part of its media mix, and the brand has partnered with MTV and ESPN Sports Center as content partners.

Too late?
So has Puma – that entered the country as late as 2005, missed the bus and lost out to its competition – Reebok, Adidas and Nike by keeping TV out of its media plan? Shripad Nadkarni, Founder Director, MarketGate Consulting, feels that the success of any brand need not depend on the time of its entry. “Irrespective of whether the entry is late or not, success depends on how well the brand is able to differentiate its offerings and how consistently it sticks to that positioning,” he says.

The key challenge is to understand consumer needs and offer a product that is in sync with that and create a brand that is well differentiated from the others.

Shripad Nadkarni

Shripad Nadkarni, Founder Director, MarketGate Consulting

According to Sharad Sarin, Professor, Marketing, XLRI, consumer brands look at creating a balance between the push and pull channels. Push being the dealers, who encourage consumers to buy one’s products and pull being the media, through which consumers are educated and prompted to go to the retail outlets. “So if one’s distribution network is not in place, efforts on the ‘pull’ side become meaningless and investments are wasted, so seemingly Puma has done a wise thing by organising retail outlets but it has to ensure that its products move out of those outlets as well,” he says.

Similarily Vidyadhar Wabgaonkar, Senior VP – Strategic Planning, DraftFCB + Ulka feels, “Expanding distribution under the aegis of a media campaign is a rather expensive way of doing it. However, in absence of a far reaching sales structure, it is a possible way forward.”

Sharad Sarin

Sharad Sarin, Professor, Marketing, XLRI

Sarin also feels that choosing TV as an advertising tool ultimately becomes a necessity for brands to follow the leaders, unless the brands find another viable medium to reach out to its TG. “TV is used more so in cases where the brand wants to reach out to a wider audience, if Puma finds a more effective means to do that then that would be considered a smart move,” Sarin adds.

According to Mehta, Puma’s communication strategy is to be the ‘content brand’ for India’s youth who is creative, discerning and stylish. Thus, the TG for the brand is the SEC A+ 18-28 year old. Moreover, brand’s marketing objective, as Mehta says, is to “use ‘Joy’ in the communication and engage consumers through clutter breaking, colourful and quirky imagery that get embedded in consumers’ minds.” The brand also heavily relies on experiential marketing.

Vidyadhar Wabgaonkar

Vidyadhar Wabgaonkar, Senior VP – Strategic Planning, DraftFCB + Ulka

There may be a glitch here too as Wabgaonkar observes, “Puma’s past efforts included mall activations where young men and women were encouraged to run fast and win a pair of Faas 300 shoes free. Though eye catching, this activity has a low reach. Hence, it can’t be the key pillar of the brand’s marketing effort.”

Pulling a Faas one
While Puma has always relied heavily on digital/social media, print and outdoor, it is planning to include TV for its latest ‘Move Faas’ campaign, which showcases the brands latest ‘Faas’ range of lightweight running shoes.

The campaign, conceptualised by Delhi based creative agency, The Brewhouse, encourages consumers to integrate this range as part of their lifestyle and not just as shoes for work out.

Puma India is also leveraging on the forthcoming Olympics and promoting the range with various contests and retail engagement activities. Globally, the brand uses Jamaican athlete, Usain Bolt in the imagery but for India it has roped in Yuvraj Singh and actress Chitrangada Singh. It is the first time a Bollywood celebrity is being used in its campaign. Also, Puma has joined hands with MTV and ESPN Sports Center as content partners.

Digitally yours

Rajiv Mehta

Rajiv Mehta, Managing Director, Puma South Asia and Asia

In spite of an integrated plan, digital still is going to play a major role in the campaign. Puma looks at digital as its main tool of communication. “The very nature of digital media allows us to utilise it to create more engaging content for consumers. Our campaigns help us create deeper engagement levels with our consumers since we have always converted our campaigns into avenues for consumers to experience them,” explains Mehta.

In the past, Puma has run some provocative digital campaigns to gain enough traction. Mehta believes that campaigns like ‘Pimp Your Sole’, ‘Horny for Cricket’, ‘#love12’, ‘Faastest Indian’ have helped break clutter and set the brand apart in a competitive environment.

Wabgaonkar feels that while digital forms a very important part of Puma’s marketing strategy, internet is fragmented as a medium and fails to create enough media pressure only by itself. “As a result, Puma may have to supplement its digital efforts with other mass media and specifically TV, given the poor reading habits of its target audience,” he adds.

It’s different?
While in a war to differentiate themselves and catch consumer attention marketers often come up with catchy phrases and product gimmicks. The case in point is the question mark over Reebok’s claim for its Reetone range of products, which promise toned thighs and butts. While Reebok stands by its claim, Mehta asserts that Faas is no gimmick. “Thanks to these communication efforts, the Indian consumer is better aware of the technologies in the market and is on the lookout for more,” he says.

Reposing confidence on Puma’s retail strategy, he adds, “We have noticed consumers asking for detailed information about product technology from the fashion consultants in our stores. They are always interested in knowing the effect of such technologies on their performance etc. All our products are very strong on functionality and technology, in addition to design and colour. We invest significant resources in training the store staff so that they can provide in-depth information about all aspects of our products to the consumers.”

A Faas leap
In addition, the company is investing heavily in developing a larger range of cricket merchandise. It will launch new products throughout the year with a couple of “very exciting product launches” planned in the second half of the year. It also plans to add 100 more exclusive retail outlets in 2012.

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