I read an article today asking if Playboy was going to survive the death of its founder, Hugh Hefner. The answer is: it already has… and long before Hef’s passing on September 27th at the age of 91.
In 1953, Playboy launched itself as a men’s lifestyle magazine. The best clothes, the best music (Jazz was Hef’s favorite), the best furnishings, the best stereo equipment… and of course, the ladies for which every adolescent boy tried to sneak a peek.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, Playboy grew exponentially and became a symbol of machismo decadence and American flamboyance even with criticisms from the women's rights movement. Playboy Clubs offered exclusive memberships and getting an invite to the Mansion meant rubbing elbows with celebrities and beautiful women alike. Playboy was an American icon.
However, the growing trend of licensing through the eighties and nineties allowed Playboy to expand its brand. Yes, there is lingerie and products of an intimate nature… but there is also plenty of clothes, handbags, jewelry, fragrances, headwear, furniture and hard goods adorned with the trademark bunny logo. So much so, that licensing royalty became the company’s leading revenue provider.
There are countries in this world whose people are not familiar with Playboy magazine because its style does not fit their religious or cultural norms. However, that doesn't mean they are unfamiliar with Playboy. Playboy is a brand… much like Polo Ralph Lauren, Izod, or Nike. It's having an item with a simple bunny head as a logo.
Hef’s death does not mean the end of Playboy. It is widely known that his participation in the company had diminished greatly over the years. But the groundwork had been laid. Hugh Hefner managed to create a legacy for a brand that thousands of brands today can only dream of creating… immortality.