This morning, I was very surprised and also very impressed when I heard that Hugh Hefner had agreed with his top-editor, Cory Jones, to remove nudity from Playboy. Now, before I go on, let me be clear it is not because I have any issue with the nudes. They have never done anything for me or to me, so I am just fine with them. What impressed me was that Hefner was so in touch with the nature of the world he lives in that he was willing to change the very essence of his brand to accommodate them.
If you think about it, this is what has made Playboy so successful over the years. Love him or hate him, Hefner is a brilliant businessman who built a brand and created a movement by placing his finger on the social and political pulse of America and tapping it so hard that it made an entire country–down to its lawmakers–uncomfortable. It was the first true lifestyle magazine on the market (and perhaps the first true lifestyle brand) and it was lived enthusiastically and unapologetically by its creator. It will also be remembered by grandfathers, fathers and sons as a rite of passage long after Mr. Hefner and all of us are gone.
For him to let go of such an iconic portion of his brand identity is very telling. As a brand owner myself, here is what it says:
He surrounds himself with innovative, smart people and he listens to them. This is extremely important as a business owner. We may be good at design, planning or whatever it is we do, but unless we are an expert in every area of business from design and planning to accounting and the web, we need to hire intelligent men and women we trust and count on and let them do their jobs.
He’d rather take risks than play it safe. It sounds funny to say this, but Playboy without the nudes is as risky as popping them into a mainstream magazine. This move shows that, even at 89, Hefner is willing to shake things up and isn’t afraid to fail. He would rather move into an insecure new medium than rest on his laurels.
He’s more than one aspect of his brand. This piece is telling as it shows how confident he is in the whole of his product that he can let go of what is most well-known and showcase the lesser known and valued aspects.
I personally think it’s easy for us to stay cautious and “safe” but in doing what we have always done, we risk growing stagnant and being left behind by an energetic and ever-evolving world.
Tell me what you think about this decision? Do you think Playboy will succeed without the nudes? Will you read it now?