Robin Zucker

Robin Zucker is a native New Yorker who ventured into the cornfields of mid-America when it was time to attend college — just for a new experience. So she argues that it's not all that surprising that she opted to make an unusual move in her marketing career: leaving Yahoo for Playboy Enterprises.

"I have always gone to uncharted territory,"  she told CMSWire. 

Not only that, "It's been a fun marketing challenge to guide an iconic brand through its transformation via digital."

Zucker is Senior Vice President of Marketing of Digital Media at Los Angeles-based Playboy, where she's responsible for audience development, CRM, social media, customer acquisition and partnerships at one of the world's most iconic brands.

Reinventing a Legacy Brand

Before that she established and led Yahoo's central social marketing organization. She provided marketing strategy, services and consulting to increase audience engagement and expand the brand presence through the use of social media.

She has a Bachelor's degree in Communication from the University of Illinois and an MBA in Marketing from the from The Anderson School at UCLA. In addition, the Internet Advertising Bureau presented her with a Service Excellence Award for its Paid, Owned, Earned Media initiative. 

Connecting with Bill Sobel
Sobel: Moving from Yahoo to Playboy seems like a jump from the frying pan into the fire. Can you describe the challenges and what inspired you to make the move?

Zucker: My time at Yahoo! was amazing – a fantastic experience with a talented  group of dynamic co-workers (many of whom became friends). It was a great, flexible training ground and I was in constant learning mode.

But I'm energized by new challenges, especially when there is a strong foundation to build upon. Playboy is known by almost everyone (at least 97 percent of you).

When I joined, the company was at a turning point. Its licensing business was strong, with over $1.5 billion in sales. But when the company was taken private several years earlier, was licensed to a partner.

The lack of control of the website created a brand disconnect. I came on board to build an audience, to create business value and to determine the viability of launching a digital media business and, of course, taking the website back.

Playboy had some great building blocks: the brand awareness, 11 million on social and an executive leadership on board with a digital future.

I was excited to build on Playboy’s roots, to celebrate and modernize the brand. At the heart was the audience. We weren’t going digital for the sake of digital, but rather to connect with our target audience. And this is why it’s worked.

Sobel: You mentioned that Playboy magazine and the Playboy digital properties are very different. Can you talk about that?

Zucker: The magazine is a critical part of our legacy and of our business. We are now at a point, where we are looking at refining the magazine to reflect the digital direction. It’s too soon to share more details, but you can expect the two to converge in a way that makes sense. Our goal is to have the magazine be our “Fifth Avenue” presence – our brand showcase.

Sobel: You have noted, “We are looking for what fits our DNA and where our audience is. Ultimately, it's 'fishing where the fish are,'" Can you explain?

Zucker:  We are focused on building a relevant men’s lifestyle brand for today. Content is critical as being where our audience is —  whether that's on the web, on mobile or on key social platforms. We also leverage new relevant platforms, such as SnapChat.

This approach has demonstrated the relevancy of the brand today and it will make sure we stay there in the future.

Since I joined to reshape the brand’s strategy our social audience has grown to 28 million engaged users.

We were recognized by Sharablee as a 2014 Top 25 Brand on Social (No. 15, based on user engagement) and our newly minted safe for work website grew from 5 million users prior to launch to 20 million by the end of the year.

We all knew Playboy was a legacy and iconic, but these numbers speak to relevancy.  And this is just the start – we must keep evolving.

We are still refining what we do, based on our strategy and our target customer. This means a magazine update, a new commerce offering and more.

Sobel: You say that “The digital marketing space is constantly changing ... bringing change means collaboration, both internally and externally.” Can you tell us more?

Zucker: There are new platforms, new ways to reach consumers that didn’t exist 10 years ago, and sometimes two months ago.

The customer/consumer is part of the equation. Our customers have a voice they didn’t have before.

They have new things presented to them constantly, which mean their behavior keeps changing. Just because you’ve done something and it works, it doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it.

Being ahead of the next trends in tools, platforms and consumer behavior is critical – and how they related to our business and our customers.

It's critical for us to stay connected and showcase what these new opportunities mean across our lines of business. Since I’ve joined the digital team has gone from 1 to 60, which means a lot of collaboration.  With our customer at the center of our strategy it’s critical for all areas of our business to be plugged in – marketing, sales, product, editorial, commerce and licensing.

Consumer feedback is critical to evolving our business and to be relevant for the next 60 years.  Our plan is to write our history every day.