“In the early days and through his career, Guccione had robust operations around the world, so I think Penthouse in particular more than some of our other peers out there became known as an international brand,” Holland says. Coupled with the more sophisticated nature of its editorial content and the exotic beauty of its models, “Our international presence has been a strong legacy for us and we continue to exploit that globally,” she adds.
Penthouse continues to define and refine its brand for the 21st century by licensing merchandise with a target audience of young people interested in creating their own definition of sexy. Strong product categories for the U.S. market include a premium collection of men’s and women’s fragrances, a line of social footwear for women and print goods featuring the stunning pictorials Penthouse is known for on wall calendars, greeting cards and coffee table books.
One of the main aspects of developing Penthouse as a brand has been revitalizing the flagship magazine and its sister publications. Holland explains that although Penthouse has made significant inroads in working with top licensees, strengthening the idea of what Penthouse is has remained a top priority. “I look across licensing and broadcast and clubs and online, and I would say our biggest challenge is clarifying the brand,” she says.
She adds that before leaving the company in 2004, Guccione upped the sexually explicit content of the magazine to an edgier place, which is something that the subsequent management team has been working to redefine.
“There are explicit images available all over the Internet for anyone who wants to see them, so now we look at what we do as a traditional men’s brand to remain relevant,” Holland says. She says the core of Penthouse’s identity remains “stylish and scandalous” with a focus on presenting aspirational lifestyle elements for its readership.
Defining the magazine’s readership for a new era has been another key aspect of Penthouse’s licensing efforts in recent years. Director of Global Licensing Amanda Byrd says the company has completed a new set of style guides that target the 24- to 35-year-old demographic. Specifically, Byrd adds, the company is looking to connect with inspired, trend savvy millennials who are aspirational while figuring out which brands define their own personal message and identity. “Our hope is that the new style guides combined with the upcoming Penthouse collaborations with young trendsetters, will speak to that target market,” Byrd says.
Penthouse is reaching out to readers who “want to look at sexy outside the box,” Holland says, and it is doing that through new and innovative editorial features. For example, the magazine recently invited rock musician Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to shoot a pictorial for an upcoming issue. By reaching out to a different generational voice than its traditional readership, Penthouse aims to keep itself fresh and open up new avenues for licensing. “We’re engaging a new consumer group that’s out there,” Holland says.
The company’s focus on a younger audience and its long-standing history as an international brand has helped Penthouse develop some strong strategic partnerships with licensees within the last few years. Some of the biggest have been in the fashion world, as Penthouse has worked with premium designers such as Dolce & Gabbana and will soon be collaborating with U.K. fashion brand Passarella Death Squad and specialty sneaker group, Relevant Customs, on capsule collections utilizing the magazine’s graphics and images. Byrd says designers have been excited to work with Penthouse not only because of its notoriety but also because of the magazine’s history of iconic covers. “One of the key assets Penthouse had initially were our vintage covers which were great to work with as each cover line told the story of Penthouse in pop culture,” she says. “People like to remember and relive that history a little bit.”
Along with the brand’s many fashion partnerships, Penthouse is also excited about the upcoming launch of its new line of branded spirits. Byrd says Penthouse plans to have branded vodka, whiskey and a blended whiskey tequila on the market by September through its relationship with Inland Beverage Company LLC. “We feel like we are on trend with the particular spirits we’ve chosen to release and combined with the Penthouse brand recognition and its global appeal, we expect the liquors to be a hot commodity on store shelves and in home bars,” Holland says.
As the fan base grows and evolves, Penthouse is still a name that gets attention. “As a retailer, you are looking for products which standout from the rest of the crowd, and nothing stops a shopper in their tracks quite like the Penthouse brand,” Byrd says.
Sometimes it’s curiosity that makes a shopper pick up an item but what ultimately converts them is the quality of products its delivers with each of its licensed lines. Byrd says this combination of inspired merchandise and brand recognition make it a prime partner for licensees and retailers alike. “We feel like the brand’s bold identity allows retailers to harness the power of the trademark and utilize it to secure new customers and ultimately benefit their bottom line,” she says.