Getting Connected to Your Brand

Article by:
Christie Hefner, EO Speaker
Christie Hefner
EO Speaker

As Chairman and CEO, Christie Hefner oversees policy, man­agement and strategy in all areas of Playboy Enterprises. During her tenure, she has recapi­talized the company, restructured opera­tions and initiated the company’s highly suc­cessful electronic and international expan­sion. She was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World by Forbes maga­zine in 2005. At the EO Chicago University, Hefner shared how she turned a magazine into a global entertain­ment empire, how she stays connected to the brand that makes it all possible and how EO members can do the same thing in their companies.

Do you really have a brand, or do you have a popu­lar product? The former represents an attitude, a personality, and, therefore, can be extended beyond its original product. Playboy’s brand has allowed us to extend beyond the magazine into television, the Internet and a thriving US$700 million per year licensing business, all reflecting the brand’s per­sonality: a sense of fun, sexiness and freedom that embodies “the good life.”

If you do, in fact, have a brand, then you need to understand your trademark equity, and research can help you determine where you have permission to play with your brand. What you don’t do is every bit as important as what you do.

Brands are like bank accounts— either you’re making deposits or making withdrawals.

Every initiative your business undertakes either supports and enhances your brand’s strength or weakens it. Since you obviously want to increase your brand value over the long term, here are some ways to do that.

Bring Your Brand to Life

There’s a reason Disney has theme parks, and it’s not just the revenue they generate. The parks allow Disney consumers to experience the brand, which generates new consumers and brand loyalty. Similarly, Playboy partnered with the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas to open a multi-faceted entertainment destination that includes the Playboy Club with a bou­tique casino, a nightclub and a retail store. The goal in doing so was not only the boost to the company’s bottom line but also the brand awareness and experi­ence the venues bring. We are interested in opening similar projects with partners in London and Macau.

Own a Space

It’s worth thinking about whether there’s a space or category that your brand can try to own. For Playboy, that has included a focus on games and gaming, because it makes sense for our brand. For example, in addition to the newly opened Playboy Club and Casino in Las Vegas, we are partnering with Chris Moneymaker, who won the 2004 World Series of Poker and has become a strong brand in his own right, to launch a Playboy Poker collection. We will be launching casino games and poker online with a partner in Europe and hosting the first-ever Playboy Poker Camp next year.

Co-Brand with Like-Minded Partners

Our co-branding with Chris Moneymaker is but one example of Playboy’s co-branding initiatives. I believe that intelligent branding strategies include finding like-minded brands and then collaborating on proj­ects that work well for both brands.

Another example of this is Playboy’s partnership with renowned fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, who “reinterpreted” the classic Bunny Costume that is worn at the Playboy Club at the Palms alongside the traditional costume. Cavalli has long been a star on the international fashion scene and is cur­rently embraced by a new generation of celebrities and international jetsetters. We’ve also partnered with Don Diego for Playboy Cigars and Diane Von Furstenburg for a Rabbit Head print wrap dress.

Give Back to Your Community

In addition to your consumer brand, your corporate reputation will impact your success. We live in a socially conscious environment, and young consum­ers in particular are concerned that the companies with which they align are doing good work. According to a Humanitarian Youth Culture Study completed in September, more than 90% of today’s youth is more willing to consider a brand that gives a percentage of proceeds to a non-profit over a brand that doesn’t.

The focus of Playboy’s philanthropic efforts has mainly revolved around the issues of U.S. First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, personal freedom and social justice. But each brand should decide what cause is a passion and then support it wholeheartedly.

Here are several questions I believe every company should ask itself regarding its brand:

  • What does our brand stand for?
  • How can we extend the brand but stay true to its core principles?
  • What are some ways we can bring the brand to life?
  • Are there initiatives we are considering that may earn money in the short-term but will diminish the brand in the long-term?
  • What brands can we partner with on co-branding initiatives?
  • What causes are we passionate about and how can we use that passion to give back to our community?


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