Puma are adding a solar powered Sagem smartphone to their brand experience.
My initial reaction on seeing the device was to question the brand logic, it felt like a badge stuck on something a mobile phone manufacturer is trying to shift.
The solar panel does makes it visibly different, and I might consider that a reason to choose, but since when was Puma pioneering environmental issues?
Puma has felt, and acted, like a casual fashion brand…
The Puma McQueen trainer (the greatest designer ever?).
Carnaby Street, London – a flagship store in the alt. fashion street.
Puma Lift spot – which picked up a lot of fashion/designer interest.
Puma McQueen spot.
Print advertising for the Lift (see video above).
But then there is also a less high profile, only experienced by customers, thread of ethical fashion…
Puma clever little bag, designed by Yves Behar.
From a brand-community point of view, these kinds of communication & brand experience will be building trust amongst a fashion influencers, who are looking for design credentials.
They stretches a bit further than is strictly necessary by bringing in the ethical angle, which adds depth. Its an interesting case, because the ethical angle is still not a core value for the majority of these art-college influencers.
However, with concerns about ethical production (child labour etc.) of trainers, and with a view to the future – its a strong move to build equity for the future which doesn’t hurt them in the near term.
Maybe more importantly, it goes beyond the obvious which gives the sophisticated media consumer a reason to believe that Puma have human values which can be admired, beyond what is obviously commercially necessary.
So where does that leave the smartphone? Is this a strong fit, does it build their brand experience?
Well – first off, it doesn’t seem like a strong fit with the fashion influencers. Their desire for authentic design excellence is much better served by Apple/iPhone and even several of the Android phones (driven by the social authenticity of Google more than phone design at present).
(ok this might not be exactly their target audience, but you get the idea)
The phone wasn’t a completely unmerited move, in that there are a suite of genuine features like the solar power, pedometer, sport applications and access to media from puma.com.
The solar panel certainly speaks to the ethical positioning – but that’s not core to the brand appeal. The sports features appeal to an active lifestyle community, but to date Puma’s communications and brand experience has appeared to have more of a fashion focus.
Even their sports sponsorship has a distinctly fashion edge to it…
Puma sponsorship in the Volvo Ocean race
Puma sponsorship in the Gumball rally
So, despite taking steps with SAGEM to add functional and aesthetic features aiming this into their brand-community, it currently sticks out from the rest of the brand experience.
It may be that marketing work is fragmenting inside the organisation, which seems to be organised in strands around components of the Vision (which I found – thinking it was a sports media channel…)
Conclusion? Puma are doing a fantastic job of bringing together quality product, and an authentic brand experience that lives beyond communications. However, this phone isn’t on-brand (unless they are changing track), and it’s not delivering value for the core fashion influencer community who have been their target to date.
The more they invest in it, the more it will subtract from the trust people have in their brand – and I don’t believe that enough of their customers will want it, for it to be a reward or gift to existing brand advocates.