Vogue: A Marketing Faux Pas?

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It has always been exhilarating to watch and admire beautiful people in their everyday lives. It’s no surprise that a lot of the reality show characters are trendsetters and everything they do, wear and say becomes intriguing. Their lives appear to be more interesting than ours and even that of our greater community. The truth is reality television when put into perspective may not represent any acceptable definition of real. If it were, the very marketable segment of the viewing audience that watch, “Reality TV” would not define it as entertaining. Reality based entertainment has found a significant loyal audience, one which heaps valuable rewards on its producers, marketers and actors, but the often intriguing and boisterous genre rarely finds significant appreciation outside its narrow sphere of entertainment. This past spring, that all changed.

Since its birth in December of 1892 Vogue Magazine has acted as the chief fashion advisor for society’s elite, establishing the clothing trends in the perpetually evolving world of fashion. It is now published in eighteen countries, internationally expanding the legacy and influence of the fashion phenomenon. Despite Vogue’s focus on the fleeting fashion sensations of the moment, the magazine has maintained its status as the guiding voice in elite fashion styles for nearly 120 years. Though once considered the most powerful magazine in fashion, the venerable publication failed to make the Ad Age lists of the ten most powerful magazine brands in 2013, being edged out of the top ten by such publications as Style, Vice, Men’s Fitness, EatingWell, ELLE and W.

It appears that while Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour’s influence is massive, Vogue’s franchises and integrated marketing campaigns do not contend with the more innovative projects devised by those included on Ad Age’s 2013 top ten list. Daily Mail fashion columnist Liz Jones was more forthright about Vogue’s reluctance to take on more innovative concepts. “The magazine refuses to move on, to modernize and to surprise,” she said. “Like British Vogue, the fashion is superb. Ad revenues are stable. But there are no new ideas.”  Such criticism may yield some insight into explaining why Editor Anne Wintour decided to award the coveted cover of Vogue to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, the recognized King and Queen of entertainment.

It was a shocking decision to put the controversial rapper and his reality TV starlet on the April 2014 cover but early estimates for the sale of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West‘s Vogue cover had the issue set to outsell past issues that featured both Beyonce and First Lady Michelle Obama. Early estimates had Kimye’s cover projected at around 500,000 issues which would have toppled Beyonce’s sales of just over 355,000 and Obama’s sales of 293,798. But the premature projected upside to the decision and the early anticipation of soaring sales on the newsstand have been quickly halted and the once loyal and devoted readers are enraged and are threatening to shun the magazine in protest.

The New York Times once proclaimed Vogue as “the world’s most influential fashion magazine.” However, the majority of Vogue’s readers, as well as many people in the fashion industry, now feel that by putting Kim Kardashian on the cover, Vogue has lowered its standards and lost its stellar reputation. Thousands of Vogue subscribers have gone on record as saying that they are cancelling their subscriptions. Other loyal readers who regularly purchased newsstand copies say they won’t be buying the magazine anymore. Most feel that the integrity and high standards of the magazine have been seriously compromised by featuring Kim and Kanye on the cover.

So why are so many people upset with Vogue and its editor? The harsh criticism seems to be derived mostly over the feeling that Kardashian is merely “famous for being famous,” and hasn’t earned the coveted crowning achievement bestowed by Wintour. Kardashian, who stars on E! Reality show “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” first rose to fame when a sex tape featuring her and R&B artist Ray J leaked on the Internet. Traditionally, scoring a Vogue cover has been a feat reserved for and accomplished by Hollywood A-listers, award-winning directors or producers and top fashion industry figures.

It is not uncommon for companies whose performance has plateaued to take dramatic and even shocking turns in marketing strategy in an effort to ignite consumer’s renewed interest. Even well placed controversy and shock can motivate consumers into positive action, but Vogue’s recent decision may just be the newest example of a company committing a violation of marketing’s first rule of turning around a failing performance.

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