Monday, 2 February 2015

When Rihanna Met Puma – The New Age of Celebrity Collaborations

(Source: BBC UK)

In what is now old news, Rihanna has signed on as Creative Director for the womenswear line at Puma. I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while now, and not just for an excuse to feature the polarising singer herself, but to look at the implications of giving creative control of a brand to a celebrity. In what seems to be an on-going trend these days, celebrity endorsements have given way to celebrity collaborations, and with this Puma deal, celebrities are now taking on leadership roles within organisations.

Perhaps where we should start is to look at the difference between being an ambassador of a brand (wearing the clothes), and taking on a role as creative director (designing the clothes). The problem with the distinction between these two roles is that one has a greater degree of corporate accountability than the other – you can no doubt change who represents the brand overnight, but removing the association of a creative director is much more difficult as they are essentially an employee. Furthermore, the role of a creative director (in a branding context) is to lead the brand’s vision, whereas an ambassador is solely a reflection of this vision.

Now having dealt with some of the technicalities regarding these positions, I personally feel that Puma has made a really smart decision to sign on Rihanna as a Creative Director. The chart-topping singer has proven her design skills in previous collaborations with brands such as River Island and MAC Cosmetics, as well as her ability to sell whatever she puts her name to (the Riri Woo lipstick for MAC Cosmetics sold out within three hours of going on sale). She also has a stamp of approval from fashion figurehead Anna Wintour, who last year acknowledged her contribution to the industry, and awarded her the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Style Icon Award.

So although there may have been speculation at the time that Puma could have instead hired a trained designer to fill this role, what they get with Rihanna is a minted tastemaker, and one with a phenomenal fan following (90 million likes on Facebook, 40 million Twitter followers, and 14.6 million followers on Instagram) and credibility within the fashion circle. It’s probably too early to say whether Puma have a potential hit on their hands, but considering Rihanna’s background, making hits is no new feat, and so I’m looking forward to seeing her impact on this brand in the months to come.

To read more about Rihanna’s new role, visit Puma’s press page.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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