Playboy opened the doors of its newest brand extension, a West Hollywood lounge called Bar Fifty-Three, Thursday night in a launch event that showcased the brand's new positioning.

April 6, 2018

3 Min Read

Playboy opened the doors of its newest brand extension, a West Hollywood lounge called Bar Fifty-Three, Thursday night in a special launch event that featured the 2015 Playmate of the Year, Dani Mathers.

Located on the iconic Los Angeles, Calif., Sunset Strip, the intimate lounge (named after the year the magazine was started) offers a retro, speakeasy vibe and signature cocktails made with Playboy-branded spirits. Created in partnership with The Lore Group, the branding of the lounge is subtle, with not a bunny head or Playboy logo in sight. The only overt evidence of the magazine's influence is the vintage images of Playmates that line the walls and the prominent display of Playboy beverages including its Devassa beer and Playboy Cachaça liqueurs.

Just across the street, a Hustler Hollywood adult store provides an interesting juxtaposition to Playboy's new nightspot, emphasizing the magazine's efforts to create a more elevated lifestyle brand.

This re-positioning has been a key initiative of Playboy chief executive officer Scott Flanders, who joined the company in 2009 and promptly set to work on a turnaround that focuses heavily on licensing.

"When I came in, the company was losing money and it was clear that we were a sub-scale global media enterprise in a world where there was a consolidation going on, and so we had to rethink the business model," Flanders told "The Wall Street Journal Live" in 2012. "We've turned the company into primarily a licensing business. The only product we continue to produce is the U.S. magazine under Hef's leadership."

After jettisoning most of its current licensees, the company set out to develop new relationships with partners that would help position it as an upscale, aspirational lifestyle brand.

Last year, Playboy, which is ranked No. 42 on License! Global's exclusive Top 150 Global Licensors list, brought in $1.5 billion in sales of licensed product, with partners including the upscale Parisian boutique Colette and fashion designer Marc Jacobs.

Now, the company's licensing strategy has evolved beyond simple logo-slapping into what, in some cases, can almost be considered a diffusion-style model, like that of major fashion labels. No where is this more perfectly illustrated that at Bar Fifty-Three, which relies less on the Playboy name and more on the core essence of the brand.

Earlier this month Playboy also announced a new collaboration with eight world artists and licensee Blitzway to create art figurines featuring stylized interpretations of the brand. The figurines will be released throughout the year and will retail for $160.

Also this month, the company unveiled plans to expand its presence in its largest market, China. Through a new 10-year licensing deal with Handong United, a wide assortment of new men's and women's fashion apparel will be arriving on shelves in the region, adding to the 3,000 existing Playboy touch points across the country.

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