Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Innovate or die," right?

Problem: popular men's magazine is losing readers.

Solution by Innovation: re-think the product's content and expose (pun intended) an unusual generational icon to it's target demographic to regain the attention of their readers.

Playboy magazine has been seeing a decline in readers as the magazine industry as a whole is decreasing steadily. In an effort to re-attract readers and continue evolving with it's audience, this month's edition of Playboy features popular cartoon character Marge Simpson from the long-time running animated TV show "The Simpsons."


The success behind Playboy's product has always relied on shock value by offering readers a unique "insight" into the lives of celebrities and sex icons. Playboy has thought beyond its typical subject matter and has shifted into relatively unknown territory: the sexual exploitation of a popular cartoon character. Their problem was a decline in attention to the print portion of their business, so their solution was to expand the content of their product and attract the attention of a television sitcom's audience that reached 7.6 million viewers last week (tvbythenumbers.com). "The Simpsons Movie," a feature-length film, was released in 2007 and earned an impressive $527 million worldwide (boxofficemojo.com). These numbers give Playboy an optimistic look into the environment in which they are releasing their most current product. Clearly, the demand for "The Simpsons" is very strong after 21 seasons on the air. Playboy is trying to grab the attention of a massive, well-established fan-base and is anticipating a positive turn in circulation as a result of this month's edition, known as "The Marge Simpson Cover."

Jimmy Jellinek, Playboy's editorial director, said "We knew Marge's pictorial would appeal to a large demographic. This cover and pictorial is just another example of how we're evolving our editorial content to continue to reach men in their 20s, and also maintain the elements of the magazine that have attracted readers for more than 50 years."

If this proves to be a smart move for Playboy resulting in an increase in magazine sales amidst a struggling print industry, then how can we, as innovators, use Playboy's example of evolving a product to appeal to a large, established demographic in order to keep our product alive?


  1. Just to clear things up, I am not a reader of Playboy magazine. I saw this article on CNN.com and it caught my attention as a creative way for a major name in the suffering magazine industry to attract new readers, thus, being a good example for a discussion on innovation.

  2. This is a bold move for Playboy in that it runs the risk of alienating their older fan base by attracting younger, hipper readers. Given that the magazine has failed to expand their readership base, perhaps using other "Marge Simpson approaches" will help the magazine stay more relevant and hip. I'm wondering if this is merely a promotional gimmick to spark curiosity or if this actually represents a fundamental change in the magazine itself, such as an improvement their articles' quality and relevance. It will be interesting to see how (and if) this strategy delivers and whether the magazine will evolve with it.

  3. I agree .... I think it depends in whether this marks a new strategy as a whole for Playboy or whether this was just a singular attention getter. I als wonder what the difference is in payments for the rights to use Marge versus your typical human cover model. Maybe they just are really scrounging and needed a month withe a lower cost "model" and this was purely a creative way to cut costs.

  4. An excerpt from an article on cbsnews.com:

    The magazine also hopes to turn the November issue into a collectors' item by featuring Marge on the cover of only the magazines sold in newsstands.

    "It's so rare in today's digital age where you have the opportunity to send people to the newsstand to pick something up," Jellinek said.

    Playboy even convinced 7-Eleven to carry the magazine in its 1,200 corporate-owned stores, something the company has only done once before in more than 20 years.

    "We love Marge," said 7-Eleven spokesman Margaret Chabris.

  5. Great idea of getting 7-Eleven involved after their brilliant marketing strategy for the release of the Simpsons movie in 2007, where they turned a dozen of their stores into Kwik-E-Marts. Though I have seen that 7-Eleven is getting some heat for it, because they are supposed to be a family oriented convenient store. I am extremely interested to see how sale do.

  6. The declining readership of Playboy is very consistent with the overall decline of print media. With everything being online, many magazines are having to deal with this issue and there are a lot downsizing and closing down. I think that this "gimmick" will have a short term effect on readership, but in the long run, will not do much to boost sales.