November 03, 2022
In 2021, Forbes Magazine asked readers “How do experts design for immersive in-store experiences while leveraging the efficiency and instant gratification of the digital world?” At this Fall’s New York Fashion Week, PUMA had the answer.
PUMA, who had not presented a collection since their 2017 collaboration with Rihanna-founded Fenty, made their comeback with the unveiling of “Futrograde.” A cohesive blend of the real and the meta - this new collection celebrates futuristic high fashion, classic streetwear, music, and sports with a full embrace of the looks of past decades. In preparation for the show, Designer June Ambrose created over 40 custom looks for the runway that paid homage to the German archives. Collaborating with brands like Dapper Dan, Koche, and Palomo Spain, she created an iconic re-emergence of the famous tracksuits of the 1960s and 70s. Featuring bright white strobe lighting design, group dance sequences, and familiar faces like supermodel Winnie Harlow and a super athlete like Usain Bolt, the evening jump started an electrifying return and celebrated the upcoming birthday of 75 years in the industry.
Predating their runway show and hinting at their comeback, the brand created an immersive experiential platform called “Blackstation,” which is best described as a “3D spatial playground.” Inside of Blackstation, there is a metaverse roadmap with both Web3 activations and exclusive NFT drops that feature collectible tokens redeemable for real-world newly released sneakers. High Snobiety quoted PUMA’s Chief Brand Officer saying “Our approach to Web3 this year has been about engaging communities, both testing and learning. We knew that we wanted to connect both digital and physical worlds. The communities we are a part of were craving physical products. It was a really exciting process because we designed shoes that were digitally-led, then tweaked and iterated them to be built out physically.” Beginning on August 25th - the brand released passes for three different online portals. The first was given early access and the remaining were given a countdown to public release on September 7th. Once granted access, pass holders were able to redeem two NFTs, one of which is attached to a pair of sneakers. The other grants access to a customized experience based on the redeemers chosen shoe. The NFT footwear was incorporated into the show using model avatars while real models in both archival and futuristic looks walked.
Through the unveiling of this new stage in design, PUMA highlights a focus and desire that is on all major brand agendas heading into the future: how to connect with the community of people buying their products and most importantly how to receive feedback to give the people more of what they want. This level of personalization and growing expertise is a standard brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that is here to stay. Specifically for brands participating in decentralization, blockchain technologies, and token-based economics.
The daily rapid developments on social media have made it easier than ever for brands to give consumers a seat at the table when it comes to customizing their own experiences and allow them to exist inside of a controllable community. In the past, exclusive brand information on customers would be limited to nothing more than a shipping location. Through these new advances on web3, a brand like PUMA now has access to not only where their customers are buying from, but what size they are, what colors and styles they like - it gives insider access to everyone, not just celebrities or influencers. This new data access also allows brands to better prepare for product drops with more closely approximated manufacturing and distribution budgets. This level of transparency and incentive realignment are creating a more durable brand value and brand activation that is both sustainable and reliable.
For 2022, expert marketers know that the Metaverse is hands down the most sought-after place for their brands to be. Acknowledging this evident merging of the physical and digital worlds through investment is key to planning a careful yet technologically focused marketing strategy. As we approach 2023, we see that the role of the store has changed for all shoppers. Browsers turned consumers can have whatever they want; digitally on-demand. For dedicated legacy brand followers and newly interested Gen-Z viewers, in-person stores are serving as more of a showroom for inspiration - retail entertainment. Physical stores play a tangible and tactile role…they allow consumer audiences to have an immersive experience in the brand and ignite visual senses through storytelling. Plain and simple - shopping still brings joy to everyone. It is likely that we will see a return of in-person shopping in 2023 but it will serve as research for what to buy online - or in the case of the PUMA NFT sneaker - serve as a location to redeem online points with a physical reward.
Mathieu has held several high-tech and creative management positions in Europe and the US over the past 20 years. He is currently the Group CEO at CoCreativ, leading Industrial Color, Globaledit, and Smashbox Studios, servicing top-tier brands in creative production solutions. The group specializes in high-end photography, video production, post-production, SaaS collaboration, animation, eCommerce, broadcast videos, and CGI at any scale in its network of studios in New York and California. Before managing this creative group of agencies, his career started in structured finance in Paris, France, and Houston, TX. He earned a Master’s Degree in Process Engineering from INPG and an MBA from ESSEC Business School.
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