How Playboy Attracts Growth Through Customer Listening

by Alden Morse

How Playboy Attracts Growth Through Customer Listening

When you’re a brand as legendary and renowned as Playboy , the addressable market for your merch is vast enough to create complexity in every aspect of marketing. Is this ad platform working, or are we just Playboy? Did we time this messaging perfectly, or are we just Playboy? Is our store expertly optimized for conversion, or are we just Playboy?

It may be a nice problem to have, but it’s certainly not a simple one. To help make sense of it all, Playboy relied on agency partner WITHIN to advise digital marketing tactics, who in turn implemented Fairing to deliver zero party data directly from customers post-purchase. Here’s what they learned.

The Playboy Brand Is The Biggest Value Prop

The urge to run post-purchase HDYHAU surveys with only paid media channels as the available responses is strong, but it only tells you what you want to hear . Ground truth data, by nature, is not concerned with what you want to hear, and requires that you expand the realm of possibility in your attribution modeling.

The WITHIN team saw this manifest almost immediately after rolling out Fairing’s Question Stream™ , where an astounding percentage of customers were choosing to write in an Other response to the attribution question, “What drove you to purchase from Playboy today?”

Reviewing these Other responses revealed a common thread: the vast majority of customers were trying to tell Playboy, “you’re Playboy, obviously.” And in following best practices, that’s exactly the response WITHIN added to the brand’s survey question… with clear results:

“What drove you to purchase from Playboy today?” isn’t as rigid an attribution question as others can be, which was intentional given the effort customers were initially willing to make to have their voices heard. At the end of the day, what was the most influential factor in driving these shoppers to buy? An ad platform will not provide that kind of perspective, nor do they have the holistic toolkit to do so. Only the customers themselves can deliver this kind of ground truth: creative, placement and targeting may all be contributing factors to a purchase, but the lion’s share of Playboy customers inevitably convert because of the brand.

Cleaning The Attribution Windows

The aforementioned insights help to clear up another mystery: how long should a media campaign’s attribution windows be? Playboy’s Snapchat ads were running a window that initially claimed attribution at a rate 245% higher than what customers stated through Fairing. Does it make sense for Snap to claim several weeks of credit as “ad recall”, when the Playboy brand has likely been living rent-free in these shoppers’ heads for years? Probably not.

By shortening the window to resemble more of a direct response campaign, WITHIN quickly saw Snapchat’s attribution fall in line with what customers were reporting directly: a 10x improvement in precision between the two data sources, with Snap now over-reporting at a mere 14% against Fairing (well within the tolerances of the agency’s measurement science).

*"Fairing post-purchase survey insights have validated our channel mix strategies and provided guidance on new opportunities to leverage."

  • — Rebecca Traverzo, EVP, Global Marketing, Consumer Products @ PLBY Group

1:1 Marketing Is Possible For A Global Brand

The wise stakeholders at Playboy and integrated marketers at WITHIN made full use of Fairing’s Question Stream™ to tackle challenges beyond attribution. Namely, they asked a plethora of questions that would give such a large brand the kind of 1:1 customer engagement that simply can’t be developed through retail sales. Thus, the magic of DTC.

Do you follow us @Playboy on socials?

Apart from the clear opportunity to deepen a new customer connection with a cue to follow social handles, this question pairs well with the added insight of attribution, and informs where some hidden community growth opportunities may lie.

Where else do you like to shop?

Understanding the context of the customer’s closet — not just their shopping bag — is a specialty of zero party data, and in Playboy’s case, was integral in enriching affinity targeting for their audiences.

How would you describe yourself?

One of the simplest and most effective questions to ask, “How would you describe yourself?” is a persona-building data point that, through Fairing, can be sent in real-time to personalization platforms to cater creative and offers to the right audience, at the right time.


It’s inspiring to see how a brand as prominent as Playboy can nurture customer relationships directly, while leaning on their sheer scale to make data-driven decisions at the speed of a modern martech stack. The team at WITHIN also deserves a ton of credit for going above and beyond what a typical agency defines as “integrated” marketing strategy. Ultimately, it’s the customer relationships that give brands their sustainable, proprietary advantage — and when stakeholders listen to those customers, new growth trajectories can be unlocked.

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