Cool feature in AVN Magazine … Branding. Hustler and Grooby?

This article appeared in the August edition of AVN Online magazine … yes I just love the publicity! It’s nice to be in the same thread as Hustler 🙂

Leveraging Your Brand Name
Successful branding takes more than name dropping.

By: Michael Pearson

Posted: 08/25/2008
Every prominently successful business reaches a point where its name becomes a brand in itself. Just think of Calvin Klein, Harley-Davidson or Budweiser. Those names are so potent that they can boost the sales of any products branded with them.

In the adult industry, there are similar powerhouse brands and those on their way to that status. So how can a company at this level leverage its brand to sell more products and services, earning even more money?

Using a gold standard to build other brands

The name “Hustler” has become synonymous with porn. This means the Hustler name is a potent marketing tool, one that transmits selling power to whatever it’s linked to. But no brand is bulletproof. If Hustler parent company LFP doesn’t carefully choose its branding opportunities, this gold standard could eventually turn into lead.

Mindful of this, LFP President Michael H. Klein is careful about what products Hustler links itself to. He said his goal is to get maximum value from this brand, driving direct product sales and building spin-off brands such as Barely Legal. “Obviously, Hustler is our most important brand,” he said. “Having been around for 34 years, it is now stronger than ever, with our ability to utilize it to grow numerous different businesses than what it was originally utilized for.”

So what’s LFP’s secret to brand-building success? “The best way to make your brands work is to use your various different properties to cross-promote the other businesses,” Klein said. This translates into promoting in LFP magazines or using the Hustler TV channel to promote the Hustler Hollywood stores. “It could be something where we have a cable operator promote a special giveaway for consumers who purchase a Hustler TV movie to get a discount coupon for the local Hustler Hollywood store,” Klein said. “Now, you have promotion for the channel and you get the consumers into the stores, and they love it. And when they buy something, there is information on the cash receipts leading them to the websites.”

Using this cross-promotional strategy, LFP even leverages the Hustler brand to sell non-adult products. “The Hustler Casino is one our biggest successes utilizing the Hustler brand on a non-adult entertainment enterprise and has been a huge revenue source for us,” Klein said. “Also, we have strong presence in the apparel area with our Hustler- and Barely Legal-branded clothing items, including our recently successful Hustler Lingerie line. And, of course, we have been very successful in the retail arena with our nationwide chain of Hustler Hollywood stores.”

In doing all of this, LFP has been careful to not dilute its core Hustler brand. “You have to make sure that you are tied with something that is associated in some way with the theme of your company and brand,” Klein said. “People have an expectation with Hustler, and you don’t want to tie it in with something that is going to lead them to feel that it is not what they expected.”

Taking the “high road” in brand extension

You may not know the name “Grooby Productions,” but you probably have heard of its flagship site, Shemale Yum, which is in its 10th year of operation. has been so successful that Grooby Productions has used it to launch shemale sites such as Black TGirls, Brazilian Transsexuals and the hardcore Shemales From Hell. “Shemale Yum and Black TGirls are two domain names which have branded and stuck pretty well, among the models as much as the fans,” Grooby owner Steve Gallon said.

The challenge now is to win the same brand recognition for Grooby Productions itself. “Within the transgender adult sites [world], we’ve been able to brand the company name ‘Grooby,’ which a lot of surfers see as being synonymous with the quality and integrity of the specific sites we offer,” Gallon noted.

Gallon said “it’s hard for us to make headway with the ‘Grooby’ brand” outside of the shemale niche, “but that may just be something we need to build on as we release more non-[transsexual]-type sites.”

In the meantime, Grooby Productions is working hard to extend its brand as a trusted producer of quality adult content. “All the sites and projects we have, have ‘Grooby’ on them,” Gallon said. This includes promoting new sites as “Grooby” sites to alert webmasters and surfers that the sites are being produced by an experienced, proven content provider. Meanwhile, Grooby is promoting itself online, in stores and in non-traditional marketing areas such as clubs, Gallon said. “Although it’s hard to measure sales,” he said, “keeping the name out there for the potential models is just as important as potential customers.”

According to Gallon, Grooby Productions takes the “high road” when extending its brand into new areas to make sure the brand extension “won’t damage the rest of our brands.” When trouble occurs, the company swiftly moves to protect its image. “We have tried projects in the past that didn’t work out because the material dried up,” Gallon said. “I’ve been very fast to distance myself from them as soon as they stopped working out and jettisoned them from our brand, whilst keeping the customers informed. Being upfront and honest with surfers is extremely important.”

Using a name to drives brand extension

Everyone who grew up hiding Penthouse in their bedrooms knows Earl Miller’s name. He probably is the most erotic and artistic photographer ever featured on the magazine’s pages, from the glory days of Bob Guccione up to the present day.

In 1999, when Penthouse and other men’s magazines were still riding high, Miller decided to venture out into cyberspace. “At the time, it seemed like another way to market my photos,” he said. “I just didn’t realize the full potential of the Web at that time.”

Today, Miller has made this realization. That is why he is putting serious effort into extending the brand by sending TGPs lots of free watermarked galleries. Also, Miller has just released a line of branded XXX DVDs, which he produces and directs, aimed at extending the reach of his brand.

In doing all of this, Miller emphasizes his status as “Penthouse magazine’s most published photographer,” as he puts it on his home page. Because this is the real brand value behind his name, Miller said he is “making sure it is attached to everything I do.”

Miller also makes sure his website and DVDs feature the lush, beautifully shot erotic imagery that has always been his hallmark and the heart of his value as a provider of branded content. “I celebrate the joy of sex,” he said. “That’s always been my style, which is why my work features beautiful models beautifully shot, having hot and believable sex. It’s what made my name back in Penthouse in the 1970s and what I still do today. After all, there’s a whole new generation of surfers coming of legal age, looking for exciting material on the Web. Through my free galleries, my website and now my DVDs, I am trying to reach them with quality, joyful erotica – and making sure my name is front and center on all of it.”

Based on what Hustler, Grooby Productions and Earl Miller have said, successful brand leveraging requires staying true to your brand. It’s fine to put the Hustler name on a casino if the casino is in line with what people expect of Hustler. As for Hustler-branded baby wipes and diapers? No, we don’t think so.

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