As PUMA geared up for the annual streetwear expo ComplexCon, it faced the challenge of showing up alongside the likes of Nike, Adidas and other large competitors whose budgets outsized PUMA’s tenfold ©. As a challenger brand, the task was to outthink—not outbuild—their competitors, taking advantage of this rare moment to engage directly with an enthusiastic community of creators and consumers.
Combo strategists worked with PUMA to rethink what it meant to meaningfully show up to this industry-wide showcase. The core insight was that ComplexCon was essentially a horizontal gathering. Attendees understood that it was a space where everyone was mingling, their heroes (designers, musicians, artists, etc.) all walking around the same floor. Young people viewed ComplexCon as a networking event, even shopping around their portfolios. Using this insight, Combo strategists proposed that PUMA turn its booth into a job fair. It was staffed with mentors who evaluated attendees’ work against six briefs. Attendees-turned-applicants interviewed for these jobs and heard back by the end of the weekend.
Turning the ComplexCon PUMA booth into an opportunity for cross-pollination presented PUMA as a brand that was rethinking creativity within the constraints of an industry that often appropriated youth culture, repackaged it and marketed it back to that very same audience. PUMA effectively used its presence on the industry stage as a laboratory to explore a creative process that has the potential to be mutually beneficial rather than extractive.
Over two days, PUMA met 650 young creatives and reviewed their portfolios. Out of that group, PUMA filtered out 208 truly talented individuals that the brand would work with in the future. And out of that subset, found 6 stars that PUMA hired on the spot to shoot a campaign, design a product, film an ad, model and create music.
Combo’s partnership with the youth talent agency Scope of Work provided this project with an additional source of insight into the community of emerging creators PUMA sought to engage with. At the booth, SOW mentors gave professional advice and feedback throughout the weekend.
The design phase included the creation of a visual identity and accompanying assets, as well as the spatial design of the booth architecture and layout. Combo designers worked with PUMA to produce the programming, including scheduling and staffing, as well as other aspects of the feedback and interviewing process.