Corporate Eye

The Ultimate Brand Champion – Hugh Hefner of Playboy

playboyThe Playboy brand is one of the most recognized brands in the world, and since it debuted over half a century ago, one man has championed and protected that brand — Hugh Hefner.  In fact, Hefner believed so whole-heartedly in the brand promise that Playboy offered to consumers that he intentionally became the physical embodiment of the Playboy brand.  He reinvented his own image multiple times in order to live the Playboy brand promise, and consumers believed him.

The fundamental lesson to learn from Playboy and Hugh Hefner is that every brand should have a dedicated, passionate brand champion and guardian behind it.  That person should believe in the brand, advocate it, educate others about it, and protect it at all costs.

Does your brand have such a person behind it?  If not, you’re missing an important piece of the branding puzzle.

Other brand champion role models exist, such as Steve Jobs of Apple and J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter brand.  However, the longevity of Hugh Hefner’s role as brand champion for the Playboy brand is unprecedented.  It could be argued that without his relentless advocacy and protection, the Playboy brand would have faded years ago.  Even today, while the Playboy company struggles to remain solvent, the Playboy brand remains one of the most recognized brands in the world.  That means, the Playboy brand still has incredible value, but since brand value is intangible, I have to wonder if that’s enough.

I explore Hugh Hefner’s role as the ultimate brand champion in my book, Building Brand Value the Playboy Way, and I discuss J.K. Rowling’s role as brand champion and brand guardian in Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon.  Both stories are incredibly educational and inspirational, and if you don’t know how these two people affected the success of the brands they advocate, I highly recommend that you take the time to read their stories.  They provide lessons that every brand manager and marketer can learn from and apply to their own brand strategies.

You can read more about brand champions in these articles on Corporate Eye:

Who do you think is the ultimate brand champion?

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.