Playboy is Profiting From a Surprising Demographic

Playboy has been an iconic men’s lifestyle brand for over 60 years.

Though recently, a majority of its cash flow is coming from two surprising consumers – the Chinese and women.

“Our licensing business globally is over $1.5 billion of retail sales and outside of China almost all of those products are bought by women,” Scott Flanders, CEO of Playboy Enterprises, tells “Women love our rabbit head logo.”

Flanders says while they have licensing agreements in more than 180 countries, nearly 40% of their revenue comes from China.

“It’s an interesting piece because in China, we never had a website or a TV station. We never had anything from a media standpoint. Yet the Chinese buy suits, shirts, luggage branded Playboy because it represents ‘the good life.’ It represents the accentuation into the middle class for the Chinese consumer,” adds Flanders.

Playboy has undergone a massive revamp over the last five years, after magazine sales declined to around 800,000 – down from 5.6 million in 1975 – due to the plethora of free pornography on the Internet.

“When we first asked Millennials, ‘can you imagine Playboy without nudity?’ They said no and that almost shut down our consideration of taking the magazine non-nude, but when we showed them the imagery that looked like what they would see on Snapchat or Instagram…When they saw that, they said 'Wow! I like this. This is sexier than nudity',” says Flanders.

In February, the company decided to make its magazine completely non-nude, a decision that helped expose them to over 1,200 more newsstands and digital shelves.

“Magzter was the first one that embraced us and we're going to be available on the Nook and iTunes soon,” he says. "Millennials don't read that much in print, so it's really important for us to be available digitally."

In 2014, the company also re-launched as "safe for work" without any obscenity to draw in Millennials. Since then, Flanders says their traffic has quadrupled and their average demographic went from 47 to 31 years of age.

"Playboy has always been about social progressiveness. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was an early mover in gay rights and women’s rights. So we want to continue that."