Playboy Without Images? What Hugh Hefner Doesn’t Understand About Branding…
When I lived in Los Angeles, one of my fondest memories was my then-husband showing me his talents as pilot and taking me on a three-hour helicopter ride all over LA. We flew up the California coast and all over Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Brentwood, peeking into the backyards of estates worth $80 million and more. One of the most memorable homes we flew over was, of course, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion. You could clearly see the famous mansion, the aqua blue waters of the winding swimming pool and a giant car park that was filled to capacity due to the party that was in full swing below us. Like high-altitude voyeurs, we flew over Hef and his guests, and I couldn’t help wondering how many men in the world would happily give away their right limb just to be at that event.
Love him or hate him, one thing you can’t deny about Hugh Hefner is his devil-may-care attitude to what anyone thinks. For the past 63 years, Hugh has created a branding empire that embodies the lifestyle fantasy of millions of men around the world. In my opinion, Playboy has never been about the nude women. But it’s been everything about the fantasy lifestyle that Hugh has carefully created and choreographed for himself. From the silk bath robe, Mandarin slippers and pipe — to the endless supply of buxom blondes, “grotto encounters”, lavish parties and high-roller friends — even at 89 years old, Hugh Hefner is still likely the most envied man in the world.
Which is why I read with interest a couple of days ago that Playboy Magazine has decided they would stop publishing nude photos of women because, “with one click of the mouse you can get those anywhere.” Now people who say they buy the magazine “just for the articles” might actually be telling the truth.
Oh Hugh. I think you’ve forgotten the power of the brand you so carefully created. People don’t buy Playboy so they can see naked pictures of women (at least not for the last 20 years). They buy Playboy because every time they turn a page, or even glance at the cover, they’re indulging in the Playboy fantasy — of living your life, of being The Hef.
While I’m not an advocate of pornography (and have refused multiple clients in this industry), I think Hugh’s decision represents a grave lapse in business judgment. He’s basically saying, “Our images are just the same as everyone else’s — commodities that are interchangeable,” instead of realizing their enormous significance in adding to the complex mix of his brand and brand lifestyle.
So what does all this have to do with the clinical marketing of your practice? Actually, a lot. Cosmetic medicine is fast becoming a commodity. People think that your surgical skills and treatments are 100% interchangeable with those of any other cosmetic doctor — not because they’re being disrespectful to you — but because they don’t know any better. That’s why they’re buying on price. The fastest way to fix this is by building a brand — that centers around you and your skills, and makes you a celebrity in your own market. Hugh Hefner also thinks his images of naked women are a commodity — interchangeable with any others that are a mouse-click away. The irony is that he has created a distinctive brand (valued at over $500 million), literally iconic, that places him front and center, making Playboy distinctive and arguably irreplaceable. He’s just forgotten its value.