You may have seen the headline announced recently that Playboy has opted to no longer publish pictures of naked women in it’s magazine.
Imagine that? In the 1970s it was reported that 25% of all male college students were purchasing Playboy. It was quite truly a rite of passage.
However, with the emergence of new competition, the magazine’s circulation began to drop off in the early 1990s. From shifting 7.2 million copies in November 1972, the latest edition sold around 750,000. For years, the US edition of the magazine hasn’t been profitable.
Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this. I mean, look at the parallels. The magazine today faces a media environment that has been so disrupted by the web, people have limitless options to consume Playboy’s core product. Their Chief Executive told the New York Times, “That battle has been fought and won … You’re now one click away from seeing every act imaginable for free. And so it (the magazine) is just passé at this juncture.”
When reading about the justification from the company to make this radical change, the business often cited the change in “the behaviours and expectations of adolescent and adult males”. (Now this part should certainly sound familiar!)
We know, that like Playboy, our customers are one click away from connecting with everyone and everything they want. You certainly don’t need to trek half way across the County to spend time with the lads. You can do that from your pocket.
And yes, family life has changed, work patters have changed, we know all that. The problem is, that fundamentally our core product hasn’t. It was brought home to me whilst chatting with my dad last week, just how much amateur adult football hasn’t changed since the 1970’s.
So as Playboy have found out the hard way, if the product remains stagnant in the midst of changing customer expectations customer numbers, or in our case participants, will drop.
From the outside, we seem to be satisfied offering a 1970’s product to a totally disconnected generation. “But wait” i hear you cry, “what about all the innovative things we’ve done to satisfy our current audience, they love all the things we offer”.
To some extent I agree, just like Playboy we have asked our customers what they want, and we’ve given it to them. In fact we’ve given them loads more of what they want, and made it easier and in instances cheaper for them to access it. However, how many times have we asked those who aren’t engaging with us why they’re not? How many times have we been so focussed on the experience of our current subscribers, we’ve ignored the desires and changing expectations of those who still perceive our product as being adolescent, and out of touch with 2016?
We know that just like buying the Playboy magazine, a “kickabout and a skinful after” is no longer a rite of passage for young men. Generation Y, and certainly Generation C (the connected generation) aren’t interested in what we traditionally offer. So surely it’s important we see past our “core product”. Essentially, It’s important that we stop thinking about what we offer as “football”.
Rather than promoting “Flexi Leagues”, “CPD sessions” and the “Join Our Club programme”. What if we focused on really selling the emotional benefits – “Connecting with like minded people and elevating your sense of self worth (CPD)” , “The sense of belonging to something greater than yourself” (Join Our Club)” or “Putting all the stresses of work, family and finance on the back burner for an hour a week (Flexi League)”. (I certainly don’t have all the answers, and these are just examples but hopefully you get my point)
In conclusion, Just like Playboy, we still have a dedicated core of subscribers who want what we offer, and love it. Just like Playboy, we can all sleep at night knowing that we offer a fantastic product to those people. But imagine what might happen if we can reposition our offer?
It seems very clear to me, If we’re here to “create long lasting and enjoyable memories through football” we need to change what we offer. In simple terms, we need to stop printing naked ladies. If Hugh Hefner, an 89-year-old shadow of a man, can condone and understand a change which runs the risk of alienating 800,000 paying subscribers, some of whom have held subscriptions for decades, in order to recapture the hearts and minds of millions… surely we can be bold and brave enough to reimagine what we do?