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Joanna Angel - bare branding

Joanna Angel
bare branding
by Abram Sauer
October 1, 2007

Launched in 2002 as a self-described “unity of sex and rock n’ roll,” BurningAngel has quickly become one of the most successful and respected names in the burgeoning market for “alt porn.” Via the platform, the brand publishes short stories, music reviews, band interviews, and of course photo and video porn. But this is adult material with distinct branding and a distinct twist;

BurningAngel’s official communications make a point that their girls “are not porn stars—they’re the hot tattooed chicks you see at the supermarket, around your college campus, or hanging out at the record store. These are girls with talents, ambitions, and hobbies…” And nobody lives this particular lifestyle brand more than college English major and BurningAngel co-founder, CEO, and occasional video star Joanna Angel. Joanna recently took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about building BurningAngel, differentiating and “living” the brand, and the future of BurningAngel.

When did you know that BurningAngel had “made it?”

I still think we have a long way to go before I can feel that we’ve really made it. But I remember I started to really feel like we could accomplish something when we were featured in the New York Times. We got about ten times the amount of members as usual that day. Also, it completely legitimized the company to a lot of my friends and even family members. It's pretty easy to get media attention but being 23, and having a full page in the New York Times about your company means you had to have done something important.

What is it that sets BurningAngel’s brand apart from its competitors?

Not to sound arrogant but… me? No other company has Joanna Angel as their spokesperson. Also, a lot of people are trying to make 'punk porn' or 'alt porn' sites now and a lot of these sites have the same girls and sometimes even the same photographers. But there is only one Joanna Angel. Furthermore, I think our personality and our sense of humor really sets us apart.

It does seem true that BurningAngel incorporates a lot of humor in its films and products. What’s up with that?

I think people take porn and even 'alt porn' way too seriously. I went to college and graduated. I could be working somewhere else. I chose to do this because I thought it seemed like a lot more fun than getting a boring job behind a desk all day. I'm not trying to be the next David Lynch, or the next Richard Kern, or anything like that. I want to have fun, and I want the viewers of my movies to have fun too. Also, a lot of our members aren't really avid porn watchers. They’re a younger demographic and have barely watched any porn in their lives. Having one hundred percent serious porn would scare them away. The humor makes the website feel more like a lifestyle site, like a personal joke that the staff and the members are all in on together instead of something wrong and dirty that you need to hide from friends and girlfriends.

How important to the organization’s success is the fact that you “live” the BurningAngel brand?

It's pretty important. It would be pretty weird if a fan happened to find me campaigning for George Bush. It's not hard for me to live the brand because this is really who I am. People ask me for start up business advice all the time and I always say, especially in porn, do what you love. Don't start a foot fetish site just because you read that it is a large market and you want to cash in. If you don't like feet, or have anything remotely close to a foot fetish, the members will be able to sense it.

It's like when you go to a girl's site and it says 'Hey, I'm Sabrina... I'm soooo horny for your big [penis] and I can't wait to tell you my fantasies! Join now and enter a world of erotic adventures' as opposed to saying something like 'Hey, what's up guys! I'm Sabrina. Ever since I lost my virginity in the back of a truck I’ve been a total nympho! Check out my member’s area to see all the dirty things I've been doing around my house.' The second one sounds way hotter and people are more likely to sign up for it because members will like to know the site is a genuine depiction of 'Sabrina’s,' or whoever’s, sexual fantasies and not some recycled content. There is a lot of bullshit in the porn industry, and porn viewers are looking for something real. If BurningAngel was a bunch of photos with some text that read 'Check out all these pierced/tattooed/emo/goth sluts' we would not have the fan base that we have. People know we're authentic and they really appreciate that.

Do you think “porn” as an industry is going to continue to fragment into a multitude of providers who find greater success filling niche markets?

The people who make the most money in this industry do a lot of things underneath one umbrella and stay true to their brand. Take the Kink Network for instance. They have something like 20 sites. They're one of the most successful, if not the most successful, niche porn company around. They cater to a lot of different fetishes but they are all within one brand so there is familiarity across all the sites. The key is to have many different revenue streams like internet, DVD, merch, VOD, hotel/cable, etc.

What would you like to see for the future of BurningAngel?

I want BurningAngel to be as successful as other big porn companies. I want to basically do everything we're doing, just better, and on a grander scale. Right now we have two websites, are building a third, and releasing about five DVD's a year. I know a bunch of companies that have from like 20 to 30 websites and release two or three DVD's a month. I'd like to get the brand out more and be able to have a successful clothing line, and maybe even some kind of TV show.

I want BurningAngel to be able to do anything and everything that all the big players in porn get to do like the Playboys, Hustlers, or Vivids.


Abram D. Sauer has written about brands and branding trends since 2001. Visit for more of his work on branding and product placement.

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Joanna Angel - bare branding
 I first read about the interviewee in the New York Observer.She's quite savvy and told Larry Flynt she needed creative control over her content thet she wanted to produce in NYC(almost unheard of as most Adult productions take place in Lancaster,CA).She f@#$ing rocks for setting out on her own.And I agree about the living the brand as you can almost experience her enthusiasm. 
Patelli T Paschal, Ad Copy Support, Decline to State - October 8, 2007
 Great interview. I think this goes a long way to showing that you do not need an MBA to create a powerful brand if you are dedicated and visonary. 
name withheld, CMO - October 12, 2007
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