Hugh Hefner, who died Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, came from humble means. Born during the Prohibition era in Chicago, he was the son of a teacher and accountant from Nebraska. He served from 1944 to 1946 as a U.S. Army writer for a military newspaper. Hefner graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychologyand a double minor in Creative Writing and Art.


Hefner left his job as a copywriter for Esquire in January 1952 after he was denied a $5 raise. In 1953, he took out a mortgage, generating a bank loan of $600, and raised $8,000 from 45 investors, including $1,000 from his mother (“Not because she believed in the venture,” he told E!in 2006, “but because she believed in her son.”), to launch Playboy, which was initially going to be called Stag Party


Hugh’s son Cooper said:

“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.  He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.  He will be greatly missed by many…”

CNN Money reported:

Hefner founded Playboy in 1953 with $600 of his own money and built the
magazine into a multimillion-dollar entertainment empire that at its 1970s
peak included TV shows, a jazz festival and a string of Playboy Clubs whose
cocktail waitresses wore bunny ears and cottontails.

Over the years, the legend of “Hef” only grew as he bedded hundreds of
young women, married a few of his magazine’s “Playmates” and cavorted on
reality TV shows with a stable of girlfriends less than a third his age.


So, just how did he grow an empire and maintain circulation of a magazine for 65 years when many went bankrupt and fell from circulation years before?

We can extrapolate this from the many comments on social media where celebrities and fans shared their reactions and memories after the news reported Hefner’s death from natural causes at age 91.

5 Branding Tips

Here are five branding lessons you can learn from the iconic publisher:

1.Be your brand.

Allen Adamson wrote in Forbes

“For years Hef has been the literal persona of the Playboy brand” 

The Telegraph

For decades, Hefner remained the pipe-smoking, captain’s hat wearing,
silk-pajama-clad centre of a non-stop party at the Playboy mansions in
Chicago and later in Los Angeles.

However, it wasn’t the luxurious lifestyle surrounded by women that Hefner was promoting.  It was the iconic image.

Vanity Fair

American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story, a docudrama, premiered on Amazon earlier this year, and the authorized project serves as a fitting hagiography.

As Hefner toldThe Daily Beast in 2010,

“I would like to be remembered as someone who contributed to, and
changed the sexual and social values of my time. And I think my place
within that corner of history is fairly secure.”

From penning Playboy’s first article to pushing the boundaries by hiring black comics such as Bill Cosby when most clubs were segregated, Hefner made himself a permanent part of Playboy’s narrative and what the
brand represented.

2. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new paths, regardless of the possibility of failure

Evan Carmichael wrote
in his blog:

While his first venture with the Playboy magazine received unparalleled
success, Hefner was not so lucky with his next pursuits. He expanded within
the publishing world with two magazines called Show Business International
and Trump, neither of which had a very long shelf life. He also initially
ventured into the world of television with the late-night show Playboy
Penthouse, but it too found little success. Despite these failures that
occurred early on in his career, Hefner did not give up on the idea of
branching out and expanding the Playboy brand. “There are many roads to
Mecca,” says Hefner. Indeed, when one road collapsed, Hefner was not
hesitant to try another.

3. Add relevant value 

The running joke for Playboy fans has long been that they “read it for the articles.”

However, Hefner was adamant that the Playboy empire was not all about sex.
Rather, that was merely a portion of the brand’s appeal.


… One of its selling points has been that the magazine was created for
literate, cultured men who also happened to enjoy photos of nude ladies. An
under-publicized and notable accomplishment of the magazine is that it has
a surprising history of groundbreaking interviews with luminaries such as
Miles Davis and
Steve Jobs and has featured the work of famed writers including Margaret Atwood, Jack
Kerouac and Norman Mailer.


4. Be adaptable and willing to evolve

In 2015,
Playboy announced that it would start covering up its models.

The change happened to boost readership among younger consumers.

Jonathan Adams wrote in the
McClenahanBruer blog:

“Facing a circulation drop from 5.6 million in 1975 to just over 800,000 [in
2015], a move into digital delivery of content via the web was necessary to
connect to a younger audience, widen content circulation and deliver
content in a popular way. While consumption of content in the workplace is
desired by consumers, nudity in the workplace isn’t an option. In August of
2014, Playboy’s website went non-nude to better allow for SFW and social
media viewing and saw the average age of its reader drop from 47 to
slightly over 30 while web traffic increased from around 4 million unique
visits per month to 16 million.”

The change lasted only a year, but it highlights the necessity of being receptive to new directions.

5. Be Unique and Significant to Others

Hefner was quoted in the United Press International

How Can You Use these tips in Health Marketing of Your Medical Practice?

  1. As was typical of Hefner’s organization, brand managers looking for the human element in their storytelling
    need look no further than their own practices or businesses.

Your staff can serve as the best source of stories, and executives can build trust becoming a part of digital branding.  Sharing insights helps boost patient confidence  and increases consumer confidence.

Put them in your blog posts and social media sites.

2. By learning from failures as well as successes, you can sharpen your branding skills and perfect a pitch or campaign for the next time around.

3. When posting to your Instagram, podcast or blogs, it doesn’t have to be controversial or racy to attract your target market.

Rather, assess their interests and needs, and respond by crafting content that caters to the data.                           Analyzing consumer metrics will help to reach established and prospective patients. It will also
show your followers that you’re rewarding them for giving you their attention.

4. Use A/B split tests or test a few different versions with slightly different wordings. Use a few different methods and tweak them to see what gets the largest responses.  Doing so will ramp up website traffic, email opens and social media engagement.

Test email subject lines as well as headlines for your blog articles to see which gets the most clicks. Evaluate which changes increased visitors’ time spent on your website. Using the posts that were the most engaging write a guest article or guest blog for exposure to larger audiences.

5. Consider what makes you unique.  What do you or your practice offer that is a little different from all the others?  Is it the quality patient services and lack of wait time in the office?  Is it the portal and engagement with your clients?  Answer this for yourself and your branding will be greatly strengthened.


If you would like some suggestions on how you can expand your branding, call 561-325-9664 for a free consultation.