I recently participated in an interview regarding the Playboys name in China. My answers to the interviewer’s questions didn’t support the perspective he wanted his article to take. As a result, only one sentence from my interview was really published. I’m posting my responses to the questions I was asked because I don’t want what, in my opinion, is the genuine story to remain hidden.
Whatever your opinion of the Playboy brand may be, it is a fantastic branding story, and the company’s success in China offers many wonderful opportunities for businesses in other regions to learn.
Interviewer: It is obvious that Playboy first misread the Chinese market. Why?
Susan Gunelius: My opinion is that Playboy initially underestimated the Chinese market more than they underestimated how Chinese consumers would react to the brand. We all know that China has a conservative sexual culture. By licencing the Playboy rabbit, Playboy expanded its clientele in China, and the bunny rose to fame much like a brand like Hello Kitty. It wasn’t in nature.
Despite 20 years of Playboy brand presence in China, the magazine has never been distributed there. In China, the first Playboy club didn’t debut until the 2000s. In China, selling the brand’s merchandise has always brought in money.
The Playboy bunny now represents a particular way of life for affluent, style-conscious consumers in China. The company has collaborations with upscale labels like Marc Jacobs and the brand can be seen in high-end boutiques.
It’s crucial to remember that Playboy hoodie began as a men’s lifestyle brand in the US when Hugh Hefner released the first issue of the magazine in 1953. The magazine was jam-packed with excellent writing from renowned authors. was a result of the promised way of life.
With the company’s recent move away from nudity and pornography, it appears that it is attempting to rebrand the brand by putting the promise of a particular lifestyle back in the forefront. That’s a really excellent thing, and it ought to have happened years ago. In my book Building Brand Value the Playboy Way, I actually covered it extensively.
Chinese men and women now purchase everything from bath soaps to Playboys shirts and purses. For many years, Playboys business has been supported by its merchandise. If not for merchandising, this company would have most likely been bankrupt years ago. China accounts for about 40% of its total revenue, virtually entirely through sales of goods.
Having said that, I would contend that Playboy merch made a mistake in China, although it is unknown whether this was on purpose or by accident.
Interviewer: What is your own analysis of Playboys management of the Chinese market from 2005 to 2015?
Gunelius, Susan Again, I believe that this is one aspect of the Playboy industry that has been successful over the past ten years. In China, people are 97% aware of the Playboy brand! Clearly, the business has been doing something well.
The success of Playboy’s merchandise in China can be attributed to one simple factor. In Building Brand Value the Playboy Way, I noted a number of times that Playboy had forgotten its initial brand promise as a lifestyle brand, not merely a brand about The business was able to turn away from pornography and return to its roots in China.In the final chapter of my book that I authored in 2008, I stated that Playboy Enterprises could take advantage of a variety of chances if they were willing to start a comprehensive rebranding drive. Although times have changed, the Playboy brand is still associated with a particular male audience. The business must redefine Playboy as a welcoming brand if it wants to experience future growth. Playboy does welcome everyone in China, and the company’s retail sales haven’t suffered as a result.