One of the most iconic print brands of the last 60 years has made a tremendous splash in social marketing — and it’s had transformative impact across all channels, online and off. Find out how Playboy leveraged not just a tech revolution but a cultural one to achieve phenomenal success.

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“This brand has been undergoing a digital-led total brand transformation for the last three years,” says Philip Morelock, chief digital officer and CRO at Playboy. “We really started with social media, really connecting to a younger audience that had never really been exposed to Playboy as anything other than nostalgia-ware, something that their uncle or their grandfather liked.”

That transformation has added over five million new social followers in under two years, with the number of Instagram followers more than tripling. And in just one year, their average audience age dropped from 47 years old to 31 years old.

It also meant a tremendous leap for a brand that had been primarily print-focused for over 60 years, marketing in traditional one-way broadcast channels.

“Social is such a radically different way of interacting with the consumer,” Morelock says. “Because there are too many choices, and too many ways that consumers can spend their time, you’ve got to generate content and a perspective that holds their attention and deserves their loyalty.”

Clearly, an iconic brand like Playboy has a little bit of a head start — but they didn’t own the social media landscape until they understood not only the technological implications, but the cultural impact of social.

“If you look back even a couple of years ago, there was still sort of a Playboy look of heavy retouching and very display-oriented modeling, if you will,” he says. But that has drastically changed since the relaunch in March.

They took their cue from the explosion of social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. “They are really the leading platforms from a consumer engagement standpoint, especially around beautiful women,” Morelock explains. “And the reason those platforms are popular with today’s millennial consumer is that this is a real, unvarnished unretouched look at female beauty, and it is also the woman representing her own beauty.”

These women are sharing their own selfies, curating their own photographs and communicating directly with the Playboy audience, he notes.

“So integrating that sensibility into a 60-year-old print magazine that is known for putting women on display from a male gaze point of view has been a massive transformation in terms of how we integrate women into the product,” says Morelock.

And, he adds, it has really paid off.

“When we made the changes that we made, we expected that we would have to change our audience,” he says. “We added 105,000 new subscribers this year to the magazine. It’s really about getting a new kind of audience in front of that magazine.”

The massive engagement on social also gave the website a boost, because they were able to direct quite a bit of that traffic from social platforms.

“But on the other hand,” he warns, “you can’t expect that every visitor that you have or every viewer you have from every channel is going to want to interact with all your other channels. So you can’t really force it. You’ve got to create the opportunity for people to interact with you on whatever platform they want to spend time on.”

But don’t let that engagement go to waste.

“If you’re just building an audience and having a conversation, that can have some level of marketing value but it’s going to be hard to justify ROI, and it’s going to be very difficult to communicate the value of that effort to others in your organization,” Morelock says.

Real ROI is what matters in the end, and it comes from real interactions, getting your highest-value users to move up the value chain. That can be from entering email addresses to entering sweepstakes, and funneling them toward purchase opportunities along the way.

To learn more about leveraging brand identity, creating interaction opportunities and measuring social success, join Phillip Morelock, Playboy’s Chief Digital Officer and CRO and Stewart Rogers, VentureBeat’s Director of Marketing Technology, in our latest free, interactive VB Live event.

Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

In this VB Live event, you’ll:

  • Learn different types of consumer moves between channels, and how to track it
  • Understand how to measure social success
  • Leverage the community without cannibalising the audience


  • Phillip Morelock, Chief Digital Officer and CRO, Playboy
  • Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology for VentureBeat


  • Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat