Private members' clubs and social media case study

I was reading in The Times about the opening of the exclusive private members’ Playboy Club in Mayfair, London, this May. Originally announced back in October 2010, a small social media presence sprung up in the New Year, with a Twitter account and Facebook page set up to promote the venture. But, for a Club that will be a private members' affair - the likes of which most of us will probably never see - is a heavy social media presence necessary for a brand that is supposed to be hidden away and luxurious, one that the "common" man and woman shouldn't see because of the very essence of it?

Playboy is a tricky one. Think of Playboy and you are likely to confuse a “Playmate” and a “Bunny” in thinking they are one and the same. A Playboy Bunny is a girl who defines elegance, sophistication, luxury, style, grace, poise and charm – one who can provide a guest with excellent customer service, whilst maintaining an air of dignity in a bunny outfit. It’s perhaps this very outfit that confuses the role of a Bunny and brings about negative connotations, wrongly confusing the role with the more exposed Playmate role found on the top shelf.

For a brand like Playboy in a world where we’re used to being exposed to highly sexualised selling from a young age, a heavy and public social media presence for something that’s deemed “private” will help keep any potential onslaught in check (we may be used to being exposed, but it doesn't mean we're happy to be). It can help the Club to control their message, which is the beauty of social media by having brands be involved with the conversation.

Tweets are already occurring, before the Club has even opened, and we are being told of a family of girls who are happy to be Bunnies and who are happy to tweet personally about their roles:

What’s interesting about this is that the girls aren’t being kept under wraps which, and I’m speculating here, perhaps ties in with LCI’s wider marketing strategy (LCI license the Playboy name from Hefner). I say this because LCI are currently advertising for a Marketing Manager and “particular attention will be given to candidates who can display measurable success in using digital marketing platforms, as the role holder will champion LCI’s digital marketing programme."

I'd say a pretty decent job is already being done with the excitement these tweets will generate as the momentum picks up. As more and more girls tweet about landing their Bunny role, the more exposure the Club will get, and the more positivity will be associated with the Club. It's even better that it's coming from the Bunnies and not the corporate face, too. A slow hype is being built, even before the Club has opened for business, and the Facebook page also demonstrates this with warm congratulations to the successful Bunnies and tasteful photos posted up of casting photo shoots. Now, I’m not being cynical about how Playboy Club are using social media – if I was a student in London and this had opened 5 years ago, I would have loved to have been a Bunny – I think it’s clever what’s been done in generating not only word of mouth to give the Club "cool cred" but what's also being done in preparation for the possible onslaught that could arise when the Club opens.

It shows that they are not merely thinking of their image as and when a crisis happens, but that they have a forward-thinking social media strategy that is necessary because of the very essence of the "Playboy" brand. Even if it goes against the grain of promoting the Club as a luxurious and private space - one away from the masses - it does help us to understand a world which we could tar as "sleazy" if little was publicly put out there and the secrecy of the "private" was kept under wraps.

I'm looking forward to seeing how their social media strategy picks up as the opening night draws closer and what will happen to once the hullabaloo dies down (if there is indeed a scandalised hullabaloo to the opening) - will the social media for Playboy Club die down and the exclusivity begin? Or, will an interest in the Club from those not in the Club need to be catered for? What do you think of Playboy Club's current and potential social media tactics?

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