Live from DMA08: The Partnership of Brand and Direct: Heffner Shares Lessons Learned
October 14, 2008 — This morning, Christie Hefner, chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, presented her keynote address to DMA08 Conference & Exhibition attendees. The conference, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, runs through Thursday, October 16.
Hefner led the company onto the Internet in 1994 when Playboy became the first national magazine on the World Wide Web. Under Hefner's leadership, the company evolved into an international media and entertainment company, spanning television, the Internet, satellite radio, and mobile.
Playboy’s strategy from the beginning was to market both from a brand and a direct marketing perspective, and to create as many touchpoints as possible. “I’m a strong believer that the expertise and the mindset of the direct marketing industry is critical to all marketers,” Heffner said.
Hefner explained that the company’s early vision was that Playboy would represent, not just a series of articles, but also project its own point of view about the world. “That [view] had a sense of play and pleasure and fun, but that went hand in hand with serious ideas about what would make the world a better place and a serious commitment to personal freedom.”
From the beginning, Heffner said, there was the sense that the magazine would not simply be a publication, but a brand as well. “I don’t think every popular product is automatically a brand,” she said. For example, in Heffner’s view, Virgin Airlines is a brand; American Airlines is an airline. Nike is a brand; Reebok is a shoe company.
“The differences are a brand reflects a point of view or attitude, and as such it can be translated from one product to another, because consumers seek it out as a way of self identifying with that attitude,” Heffner said. “That was very important in Playboy’s evolution because it allowed us to take this idea of Playboy the brand . . . and launch our first successful multimedia expansion . . . .”
The reason this integration worked, Heffner explained, is that, rather than simply transferring the same message to another medium, the company strove to find an intersection of channels, and to learn how the consumer used them.
In bringing the brand to the Internet, a willingness to evolve with the changing technology was key. In the past, for example, marketers felt they had to keep visitors on their sites — but increasingly today, the opposite is true, according to Heffner. “We take original content and seed it on all the places on the Web that people go,” she said. “The notion of those other sites being competitors is no longer true — they are now your allies.”
Another trend is the integration of ecommerce with content. Heffner advised marketers to capitalize on moving away from the silos of product, content, and advertising to a more integrated experience." For example, the Playboy.com site allows visitors to purchase products showcased in the movie “House Bunny.”
Beyond the Web, Playboy has its sights set on expanding into the mobile space, Heffner said, adding that 70% of millenials believe their hand-held device is an entertainment device. This generation’s hunger for mobile creates marketing opportunities as well as content opportunities, she asserted. “We’re starting to encourage people to use mobile and think of mobile and our brand connected.”
Overall, Heffner attributed Playboy’s multichannel success to “keeping content relevant, keeping our finger on the pulse of the consumer and the marketplace, and staying true to the quality and sophistication of the brand while staying innovative.”
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