He came, he saw and he conquered. The king of sophistication, glamour and adult entertainment, Hugh Hefner, always owned the mind of his consumers with Playboy. But the brand today is having trouble standing up to its original brand promise. At 84, can Hefner ‘Play’ it well all over again?
 
Hugh was an awkward student who often got rejected by girls at school. Apparently, those experiences drove him to make “more” of his life. He created himself as a person who became an epitome of a sophisticated, urban, young bachelor who was always surrounded by beautiful, sultry women. With his silk pajamas, semi–nude models by his side and a martini in his hand, Hefner not only became the original playboy but also influences millions of others by introducing them to the Playboy brand.

Born in 1953, the brand Playboy has been globally embraced by young men and women, winning their hearts, minds and much more through its satirical cartoons, sex stories and most watched photos of women. The first issue itself included photos of Marilyn Monroe and authors such as Vladimir Nabokov (The Best of Both Worlds!). One in every 10 men in the age group of 18-34 has read the magazine. With colossal expansion throughout the globe in the 1960s and 1970s, the magazine’s circulation peaked in 1972 at 7.2 million, just after one year Playboy went public and then launched its licensed products which generated more than $900 million annually in global sales in more than 150 countries and territories at one point.

The brand today has an implausible story to tell with revenues touching rock bottom and losses mounting to $200 million. Subscription sales dropped to only $1.5 million from $2.6 million last year; so much so that Hefner’s daughter Christie Hefner who served as CEO for 20 years stepped down. So is the iconic brand in trouble? Hefner’s announcement in July to go private with the Playboy magazine having put forth a proposal to purchase all public shares of Playboy Enterprises will leave one totally unambiguous. The 84 year old made the move to ensure security of the company going forward. The company shares peaked in 1999 at about $33 for class A stock while today Hefner’s offer values the company at $5.50 per A share (he controls 70 percent of the company’s Class A voting shares and 28 percent of the Class B non voting stock). Now that will be distressing for the Bunny eared brand. The rabbit logo is one of the most recognized symbols in the world with over a hundred branded merchandise under its belt but the brand is seeing its worst time till date. So what hit Playboy so hard? Just one movement – the Internet. The idea of free sexual content being available globally killed the uniqueness of an adult men’s magazine. This, in all, ended the Playboy monopoly as the biggest adult entertainment provider. Media being a business directly proportional to social trends, Playboy’s business has fallen prey to a game it couldn’t quite master despite being there on the internet and providing on-demand videos (Playboy T.V, radio, The girls next door).

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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09/08/2011 10:38pm

while today Hefner's offer values the company at $5.50 per A share
(he controls 70 percent of the company¶s Class A voting shares and 28
percent of the Class B non voting stock). Now that will be distressing
for the Bunny eared brand. The rabbit logo is one of the most
recognized symbols in the world with over a hundred branded
merchandise under its belt but the brand is seeing its worst time till
date. Media being a
business directly proportional to social trends, Playboy's business has
fallen prey to a game it couldn't quite master despite being there on
the internet and providing on-demand videos (Playboy T.V, radio, The
girls next door).

Reply
09/08/2011 10:40pm

We believe our proposal is in best interests of Playboy
Enterprises and its minority stockholders and would reinvigorate the
company and enhance the legacy´.

Reply
09/08/2011 10:44pm

I feel that the Playboy will be in his element in no time and he will surely forget this ever happened, and why is that because he is “The Playboy”. We may just see him walking with some hot bunnies around and he will soon be over this marriage chapter.

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17/08/2011 2:53am

“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves,” said George Orwell. While he may not have been speaking of the Playboy Empire in particular, the brand certainly seems to fit the observation as it saunters into its second half-century.

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17/08/2011 2:55am

n fact, Playboy’s identity as a nudie mag is so strong that on its corporate FAQ site, the brand tenders what may be the most rhetorical question in modern publishing: “Does anyone really read Playboy for the articles?” Their answer: “The only people who can rightfully claim [this] are the thousands of blind readers who peruse our Braille edition, which has been distributed by the Library of Congress since 1970.”

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17/08/2011 2:56am

Playboy’s rabbit head, designed by Art Paul in “all of a half an hour” is probably one of the most identifiable brand logos in the world. Claiming 15 million readers worldwide, with an Internet presence, licensing deals and satellite and cable channels (both Playboy and Spice) some incarnation of Playboy is available to the vast majority of horny sophisticated men worldwide.

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17/08/2011 2:58am

Unfortunately, being seen working hard at anything, including brand building, doesn’t mesh well with the leisurely lifestyle Playboy champions. The Playboy life is that of the established man of experienced poise, comfortable in his leathery wrinkles and white chest hair. The Playboy man thumbs his nose at the prematurely ejaculated Maxim man-boy and his sophomoric loo humor.

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17/08/2011 2:59am

of the matter is that Hef will die, sooner rather than later, and it has been underestimated how much he and the brand are intertwined. Much of the brand’s success is because Hefner worked so hard to build it; to live it. It is hard to imagine the public getting behind another man (his sons have been proposed) in a silk bathrobe with seven naked women at his side.

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17/08/2011 3:00am

Playboy is loved because Hef is loved. Unlike many other magazines, Playboy was taken seriously because Hefner sincerely mortgaged himself to the lifestyle, telling us that he’d live this way whether he had money or not. An assigned interloper in rabbit slippers will never capture the personality at the heart of the brand. And like so many Playboy readers already know, real is better than implanted.

Reply
17/08/2011 3:01am

In February 2003, the Far Eastern Economic Review named Playboy the most popular brand in China. Playboy claims to have over 700 points of sale there retailing both men’s and women’s clothing.

Reply
17/08/2011 3:03am

Yet, as a new editor of the magazine comes in promising competitive-edge change, it seems as if Playboy is attempting to forget its true self and act the lad that it once so dreadfully pretended not to be.

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17/08/2011 3:05am

Playboy Apparel is a youth, street wear brand meant for both men and women. It will cater specifically to the 16-35 year age group," says Govind Shrikhande, President and CEO, Shoppers Stop. Priced between Rs 600 to 1,800, the Playboy brand will have shirts, T-shirts and jackets in its range. "We are present in a couple of stores in Mumbai and Delhi. We have plans to open another 20 shop-in-shops in the next two years,"

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17/08/2011 3:06am

The Chicago-based Playboy Apparel (from the stable of well-known Playboy magazine), had launched fragrances for men in India has now signed agreements under which its Indian partners would manufacture and sell its range of products in the market.

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