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Playboy's Modern Evolution: Iconic Brand Growth Through Influential Partnerships and Creator-Led Content

Welcome to Revenue Boost: A Marketing Podcast, the ultimate resource for business leaders eager to skyrocket their company's growth!

I'm your host, Kerry Curran, and this episode is “Playboy's Modern Evolution: Iconic Brand Growth Through Influential Partnerships and Creator-Led Content” with special guests Amanda Solomon, VP of Creator and Social Growth, and Shayna Macklin, Director of Brand Strategy, Social, and Original Content.

In this episode, we'll explore how Playboy is redefining itself through innovative partnerships and creator-led content. Amanda and Shayna share insights on leveraging authenticity and modern storytelling to captivate new audiences. They'll discuss the impact of influencer marketing and the evolution of brand perception, revealing Playboy's secrets to staying relevant in a crowded market.

Whether you're a marketer seeking to boost your brand's visibility or a business owner aiming to increase revenue, this episode offers actionable advice and inspiring stories. Tune in to learn how to navigate today's digital landscape and create a lasting impression with your target audience.

Podcast transcript

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (00:01.858)

Welcome, Shayna and Amanda. We're psyched to have you here today. We'd love to have you introduce yourselves.

 

Amanda Solomon (00:23.352)

Sure, yeah, I'll jump in first. I'm Amanda Solomon.

I'm currently the VP of Creator and Social Growth over at Playboy. My career really got a start on the talent agency and representation side. I've built and sold several talent agencies over the years and it really set me up to have a very unique position now on the brand side being at Playboy as to how creators work, what makes them tick and how to really successfully work with them. And that of course ties in very closely to social.

 

Shayna Macklin (00:55.314)

And then I'm so excited to be here. I'm Shayna Macklin. I am the director of Brand Strategy, Social and Original Content Series. And, you know, similar to Amanda, I have worked in several different varieties across marketing, everything from paid media to influencer to content to organic, which is really making its way back right now. So really excited to jump into this conversation.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (01:25.026)

Excellent, great. Now, I met Shayna and Amanda at the CMO Alliance and learned so much from your fireside chat. So thank you so much for taking the time to join us. So I know you've both worked with a number of really fabulous brands, well-known name brands, and you have a lot of experience in brand awareness, growth, strategy. How do you think we should help brands with kind of… pushing through that crowded landscape today.

 

Amanda Solomon (01:57.816)

Absolutely, well, I think the buzzword for this is probably authenticity. And I think we truly mean it when we say it. I think you're really not seeing these like highly produced ads anymore. We still see them, right? We see Super Bowl commercials. It's still out there, but that's not what's happening on social [media]. I remember one of my creators I used to represent, this was three or four years ago, did a twisted T-spot on his Twitter. And it was like an ad and it performed so well three or four years ago. But what we're seeing now is a more, is a split between let's call it like UGC content. So kind of like the average person being able to kind of be like, I love this product. And then a bit more highly curated, but not highly produced creator series. And I'm seeing a lot of brands do this. I did this when I was over at Sports Illustrated, Parade Magazine and Men's Journal and really am taking that same approach here with Shayna, obviously at the helm of that, to really bring together like, what does Playboy mean as a lifestyle today? And how can we showcase that through the creators we work with, the influencers we work with, and the models we work with in a less scripted, less highly produced way and more authentic, right? Like, what does our community look like? And Shayna, I would love for you to kind of speak on that as well.

 

Shayna Macklin (03:18.387)

Yeah, no, I completely agree with everything that you just said. And I think, too, the reason that we've seen such a major lift in creator programs, right? Like a few years ago, the buzzwords were influencer programs and what can influencers do for us? And I think over the last couple of years, there's really been such a big push for that, but there's also fatigue from influencer -specific marketing, right? And so where creators come in is that they are aspirational but attainable.

Right, and so even in paid media, like over when I was at Rainbow Shops, even for our paid media, we were seeing a significant ROI on our UGC style content versus the super polished, highly edited, produced content that we were running in ads. And so what we started doing was having whatever creative that I was working on for our creative program, I would kick that over to our ads. And then those would just perform tenfold. 

Also looping back to something Amanda mentioned, which is where she's worked on so many amazing heritage brands. And I think our challenge today is how do we keep that heritage, right? Because that's what we are known for at Playboy. We are so iconic. But how do we keep the heritage of it while bringing it into the modern day? And then what does that look like from a storytelling standpoint and a visual standpoint and a brand?

Personal standpoint. And that's really where we are leaning on those authentic moments.

 

Amanda Solomon (04:48.601)

I mean, that's like the million dollar question. I think Shayna and I probably talk about this …

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (04:48.77)

That's, yeah.

 

Amanda Solomon (04:52.793)

… at least a couple hours a week on how do we stay true to honoring our legacy while bringing it to the modern age because realistically the faces of the 1960s, 80s and even 2000s do look different than today. Beauty standards, while there are many similarities that have carried across through the decades, there are also so many new trends and appreciations, I think, for the different cultures, the different aesthetics that are just, I don't even wanna say popular because it's not like it's going to come and go. I truly believe that they're here to stay, but how do we kind of like modernize and bring that back into the fold?

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (05:26.626)

Yeah.

 

Shayna Macklin (05:33.075)

And how we define it, and you really just hit the nail on the head. It's like, how do we, like beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and how are we helping to redefine what beauty means to Playboy? And that really is like the biggest challenge for us right now.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (05:46.05)

Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Yeah, so how are you addressing that challenge? How do you go about shifting that perception and standing out? There's new competitors to Playboy, I imagine, than there were 10, 15, 20 years ago, and the target audience has probably expanded. How do you shift that perception and modernize it, such a legacy brand?

 

Shayna Macklin (06:14.835)

I mean, I think from a brand perception, and I throw that specific phrase out at Amanda probably two to three times a day, I'm like, brand perception, brand perception. But I think from a brand perception point, it's like I mentioned, like honoring who we are, where we came from, but then showing up in these new ways, such as with the original content series that we're currently in.

Working on and producing and we are trying to partner with creators, right? So not people that are necessarily on our platform, but people that have influence, that have a voice in different spaces, right? So we're talking about, again, looping what Playboy was in the 60s with art, culture, music, wellness, sexuality. We were really like the drivers of culture. How do we bring that back in and what types of original content?

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (07:04.865)

Okay.

 

Shayna Macklin (07:08.197)

Series can help us do that, right? And what are the faces of those series? So I think it's just making sure that we always have that in the back of our mind, but then also look to partner with people who are super, super influential. We actually just did this amazing partnership with a really great influencer and we're launching her on July 1st. And she's really our first foray into helping us change up brand perception that, hey, we're still here, we're still cool, but we're talking about things that matter to you, but we're also in tune with pop culture.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (07:47.586)

That's great. Amanda, anything else to add to that?

 

Amanda Solomon (07:50.317)

No, honestly, I think she, like Shayna and I truthfully share the same mind on so many things. I would, you know, if I, to add something and not double up on what Shayna said. Being at the helm of two very influential departments at Playboy, I try to personally, for anyone that is maybe listening and trying to figure out how do I go about this, I try to give Playboy a persona and I try to think of Playboy as a person. And so when I'm going through and creating applications for the platform or I'm evaluating a celebrity to shoot, I try to think of, do they feel like Playboy? If I called them Playboy, would they look like it, talk like it, act like it, walk like it?

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (08:29.57)

Mm -hmm.

 

Amanda Solomon (08:31.79)

Like that, like I really try to like to personify it. And there's also something Shayna has been working on, it's so cool. There are the different personas of Playboy of any brand that make it up. It's not just one. It's not just, we are Marilyn Monroe. We are not just Kim Kardashian. We are not just, you know, Megan Fox. We are a culmination of all of these faces. And so as we're evaluating what creators to work with, what content series to launch, we try to pull from these personas that we've created and I guess like agreed on, right? To help guide us and have that be our North Star.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (09:05.506)

No, I love that.

 

Shayna Macklin (09:05.587)

And then honestly to add to that too, you know when we're talking about personas that also helps us with brand sponsorship pitches, right? So if we have one company that is really kind of honing in on someone that you know wants to work with a creator that is really girl next door, maybe a little bit shy but has like a great fashion sense or is like super into art, then we have someone that we can partner with that brand, that creator, and we can customize an original series that that brand can own.

And then moving forward, we will have series in that vein that speaks to that consumer, right? And then the same thing, if we have a brand that's super edgy and really pushes the boundaries of things and isn't afraid to be a little bit controversial, we have a creator that we can partner with that brand and make an original series that can then continue to live on. So, you know, for us, it's just how do we put the pieces of the puzzle together? And, you know, that's something that we… are you know.

On a regular basis and it continues to evolve right as social [media] continues to evolve as how people consume content and the types of content that they want to see continues to evolve. How can we show up for them? How they want to see us and where they least expect us to give them that surprise and delight moment right? What does that look like for us? And that's how we honestly approach everything that we do. How can we create these really authentic exciting moments to bring people over to the platform?

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (10:36.93)

No, that's incredible. And yeah, there's so many different ways and different layers to it. So I imagine you guys are super busy. But what's so cool about a brand, I mean, many cool things about such an iconic legacy brand, but you have the brand awareness, right? So it sounds like your challenge is really shifting and modernizing that. Where do you see brands that don't have such a strong identity and awareness? Like, where do you see them missing the mark when it comes to growing their awareness and audience base?

 

Amanda Solomon (11:10.813)

I think a big misstep that I see a lot is brands trying to replicate what other brands are doing without really going, is this the business model? Is this the same type of model? Like great example is Duolingo. They've done an incredible job on TikTok. Everyone is trying to emulate them. And I think many people fall short because it doesn't work with everyone. Everyone kind of has their own unique perspective and unique...

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (11:27.938)

Mm -hmm. Yeah. Mm -hmm.

 

Amanda Solomon (11:39.71)

I guess like mix that will work for them. What I know Shayna and I try to do most is pull inspiration. We literally have a Slack channel of like campaigns that inspire us and little nuggets that we can kind of take either for our own or just to share and be like, wow, that was so incredible.

I think that that's a really big thing is figuring out what your unique angle is. And I think one brand that does it really well, aside from Duolingo, I admire very much is Way, the like hair care products. They do an incredible job of knowing who their target audience is as far as customer base goes. They understand the influencers that have the audience that they want and they create experiences. And there's like one in particular, and I think Shayna, I may have shared it with you.

I know I shared this with so many people, I was like, this is incredible. They had an influencer trip in St. Barths, which was amazing, gorgeous, beautiful. Lots of people talked [redacted] about.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (12:33.282)

Mm -hmm.

 

Amanda Solomon (12:36.32)

Brand trips for influencers because they're these lavish trips, they're flown first class and could be disconnected from reality. But one thing I do appreciate that they did very well, because this was celebrating their launch of Wei and St. Barth's product line, was that the influencers were tagging and linking to a specific landing page that not only went to what like the influencers itineraries, but it then went to the product line and then they had St. Barths specific cocktails. So me as the non-influencer, not on this lavish brand trip can now interact with, I imagine I'm there by seeing the itinerary. I'm able to make the drinks that my favorite beauty TikToker is probably drinking right now on the island and then I can shop for products. You best believe I bought that body scrub so freaking fast. And so to me, like just being able to figure it like figure that out, I don't know …

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (13:07.01)

May come.

 

Amanda Solomon (13:27.346)

… I don't know anyone that works there, so I don't know how they did that, but that, to me, that's inspiring, that's incredible, and I imagine they probably had to do a lot of trial and error to kind of figure out what that works, but that was not something that others have replicated. Tarte is very well known for their very big brand trips. Tarte doesn't do anything like that. Not a knock at them, love them too, but that was a very unique spin on something that others do.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (13:27.362)

Mm -hmm.

 

Shayna Macklin (13:50.802)

And then also, yes, you sent that to me. Yes, it made me order that scrub. So thank you for that purchase. I didn't know I needed it. And another brand that does really well is BASE by Shay Mitchell. It's bags and luggage. And they, from a community management and social listening standpoint, they freaking knock it out of the park. A few months ago, there was a lot of banter on social [media]. It's supposed to be such a great brand and it gets dirty so quickly.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (13:50.882)

Yeah.

 

Shayna Macklin (14:20.708)

I can't keep it clean. So what did they do? They opened up a car wash in LA I believe it was in LA where you could bring in your base like items bags luggage whatever and they would wash it for you for free and they made an entire experiential pop-up around it and there was like drinks and all of this stuff and little swag bags if you brought it in and I was like God that is that is like the epitome of listening to your consumer and taking action and that's also something that

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (14:33.89)

That's amazing.

 

Shayna Macklin (14:50.611)

That brands fail to do. They will listen.

But then there are the chains of command, right? No knocks at like C-suite and stuff because we've all been there, but then C-suite can often be tone deaf to, well, it's either gonna cost too much in the short term, right? Cause a lot of times we think about the short term game, but we don't think about what is the repeat purchase, right? Like what could this potentially get us down the road if we make the small investment now? So doing that and again, just investing in brands. It takes, yes, it takes a hell of a lot of money to invest in a brand. 

We know this right and not everyone can do it but the long-term value and payoff of that repeat purchase and the potential to drive up AOV whether it's in store or online Will be tenfold of whatever you're spending on that experiential event, you know and base really I wasn't a base consumer before but I followed the social I love what they do that activation got me to be

become a customer because I know that they listen to their customers. When their customers aren't happy, they don't feel successful. And that to me shows me that they are invested in long-term relationships with me as a person and what my needs are, right? And a lot of brands just aren't doing that. So kudos to BASE really and the team though. They just hit it out of the park.

 

Amanda Solomon (16:18.304)

Also, their content is such a vibe. They are on trend with TikToks all the time, all the time. Yeah.

 

Shayna Macklin (16:24.05)

It's bananas. You need to give it if anyone from their team is listening, give those ladies a raise. OK, because they're just like, I want to be in that lifestyle. Right. And that's also to like, are you talking to your consumer or are you having a conversation with them? Those are two totally different things. And, you know, the brands that Amanda and I mentioned, they do a great job at bringing consumers into the fold to where the consumer will want to buy whatever it is they have. And there's an I'll stop it. There's one more brand that I think itdoes a really great job. It's called Ursa Major. They're a skincare brand. 

You too? my god, wait, you know them? That makes my heart so happy because I'm obsessed with them. my god.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (16:55.202)

Yeah. Yes. my God. I'm a huge, huge fan. Yes. Yes. my God. Will it still? Yes. I just ordered more yesterday. It's taken over all of my skincare. I love it.

 

Shayna Macklin (17:10.514)

They are amazing. They just did this wellness experience out in Vermont where they're based and they invited wellness creators, nutritionists. Like they really dug deep into the core of their consumer. And I'm like, whatever they buy, just take my money, just auto ship it. I'm sorry, whatever they are, I'm going to redo that. Whatever they sell, just take my money and auto ship it. Because I just love, I love their product. Like, but outside of loving the product, I love the lifestyle.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (17:28.482)

Right?

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (17:34.658)

Yeah.

 

Shayna Macklin (17:40.467)

That it represents, right?

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (17:40.482)

Yeah, I'll tell you, it's for me that Connection was Vermont. And then their ads felt so authentic, because it was the founder with her glowing skin. But the face wash, if you haven't tried it yet, smells so good that I tell everyone, it's like you take a minute and you're breathing in, and you're like, I'm at a spa for 30 seconds, then I'm back to chaos.

 

Shayna Macklin (17:52.881)

Yeah, I love her. She's fabulous. Yeah, it's amazing. So good.

 

Shayna Macklin (18:06.385)

…. and it's foamy, it's like this milk cleanser. I'll send it to you. Girl, this is not me on my phone sending you my whole thing. Yes, it's fabulous.

 

Amanda Solomon (18:07.808)

Someone needs to link me to these products after.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (18:10.754)

Yeah, well, we'll put up, we'll put links to all of the brands in the, in the text. no, or some major is my favorite and it works really well. Like that I could go on all day, but yeah, totally agree.

 

Shayna Macklin (18:24.977)

Okay, you just not like side note you need to get them on a pile like I love Emily like I just love them like I I've I've they're fabulous

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (18:29.474)

Yeah, okay. I would love that. Yeah, and so, you know, it's what you're, you know, the common themes here are it's not just a social campaign, it's not just an influencer campaign, and it's not just experiential. I feel like, think back to back in the day before you could connect it with more digital online, like.

You know, you're renting a booth at wherever and giving samples and that's it to your point. It's like tying it to product links. That's, you know, that shouldn't be that novel, but I think it is. And then making sure that they're sharing it on social [media] and allowing to expand that experience beyond the people who are important or people who are there in place is very important. 

One other thing to point out is I've been having a lot of conversations about the more strategic steps and tactics to brand building and everything you hit on that has naturally evolved for those brands. I mean, probably not, we're a concerted effort. The vibe, right? The image that the brand is, how they want to portray themselves to their audience and how they want their audience to feel about their brand. 

Like those are that like you just all those examples are how that investment has really come to life for those brands. So I love all of those examples for sure. Yeah. Great. And so I know we talked a bit about things that are going well for brands and brands are doing it well. But if you had the opportunity to have a face to face conversation with an executive that doesn't believe in those investments or making that a priority. So what would you tell the executives that are reducing marketing and brand budget and priority?

 

Shayna Macklin (20:23.571)

How much time do we have left on the podcast? Because girl, Amanda and I could go on for days.

 

Amanda Solomon (20:25.921)

Yeah.

 

Shayna Macklin (20:37.426)

So for me, I'll just say, I think, think about what that LTV is, right? So it all comes back to lifetime value. And think about where you see your brand in the next two years, right? What does that look like? And do you feel as an executive that you have given your team the tools that they need to reach what that vision is?

Right? Remove that dollar sign. Think about the long -term goal.

I know we're always looking a lot of C-suites looking at short -term and pulling marketing but without brand awareness Right because it all comes back to brand awareness. You will not survive your brands will just get lost and fade out So Amanda, I would love to hear your thoughts

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (21:17.57)

Yeah, yeah.

 

Amanda Solomon (21:31.267)

Yeah, I mean, obviously you and I share the same sentiment on that. I think… it's really easy to say, let's cut marketing spend. Look how we're doing now, let's cut marketing spend. We don't need to do awareness campaigns. We don't need to do influencer marketing. And I think, like you said, Shayna, it's very easy to get lost. So like back to the first question, I think you asked us, Carrie, like how do brands push past a crowded landscape? It's through marketing dollars, whether it's through marketing dollars on TikTok, Meta.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (21:51.042)

Mm -hmm.

 

Amanda Solomon (22:03.49)

Influencer marketing, dark posts, like there needs to be some sort of strategy and utilization of like resources like funds in order to make sure that like you're you can at least learn from it. So maybe you're doing something and it's not going to bring you the ROI that you want but now you have the data from having spent that 20, 50 thousand dollars to know like all right our audience does not react well to ABC type of content or type of influencers or type of ads. 

Now you know not to do that so you're much more informed and it costs money I think to learn these types of lessons outside of marketing spend outside of advertising but just really knowing like what works and what resonates with your audience can then also inform the type of content you put on social for example hey our our audience does not like to see videos about insert blank we're probably not gonna have any of our influencers make that type of content for our page.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (22:58.178)

Yeah, yeah, no, this is great.

 

Shayna Macklin (22:59.25)

And also too, remembering sometimes it doesn't, you don't need budgets of $50 ,000, right? You can do small A -B testing with like $2 ,500 and do like a really short stint of creative run, right? And see what that does for you, right? And I think too, the thing is give your team's time. You know, I always talk about this like at NaZim, but we need time in order to see what works and what doesn't. And …

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (23:08.258)

Mm -hmm.

 

Shayna Macklin (23:27.315)

… people want to see those things right away, but the consumer will tell you what they want. You know, like Amanda was just saying, like if this doesn't perform well, they're telling you that they don't like to see that, right? The numbers and the data won't lie.

Put enough time to get those learnings. It's, I don't know, I just, I think you just need to give time.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (23:54.466)

Well, thank you. Thank you both. You are absolutely amazing and hope to have you on again. And we will definitely build that list of recommended products. But thank you both. And I'm very excited for all of your original content and the work you're doing for Playboy. I think you guys are going to really make an impact on modernizing the brand. So they're lucky to have you both. So. Yeah.

 

Shayna Macklin (24:19.251)

Thank you, we're so grateful to be with the company. So thank you so much.

 

Amanda Solomon (24:19.525)

Thank you.

 

Kerry Curran, RBMA (24:23.298)

Thank you. All right. Thanks.

 

Amanda Solomon (24:26.149)

Thanks.

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