Vogue: 100 years of brand rejuvenation

The Taylor family visited the wonderful Vogue 100 Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this weekend. I highly recommend it if you live in London or are visiting. In addition to being wowed by the fantastic range of photography commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916, I was also inspired by the way the brand is still going strong after 100 years.

Many doomsayers have predicted the death of magazines all together. Stephen Quinn, publishing director of Vogue, responds to these claims by saying, “F**ck the begrudgers”. And he has a point. The magazine has a “solid” circulation of 200,000, and published record advertising revenues in 2014, up 7% year-on-year according to this report.

What are some lessons we can take from Vogue’s enduring appeal?

1. Consistently strong visual identity

One of things that struck me straight away is how consistent the brand’s visual identity has been. It went through some evolution during the first 50 years or so. But since 1950 the visual identity has been remarkably consistent, with the elegant, upper case typeface and strong front cover image. The style of Vogue has incredible longevity, as shown by the image below left being on the bedroom wall of Jessica, my 17 year ofd daughter!

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2. Create and amplify distinctive brand properties

Vogue has consistently delivered a distinctive type of content, centred on the world of fashion. The magazine format remains a great showcase for this content, as Stephen Quinn explains: “The glamour, gorgeousness and beauty of Vogue’s fashion shoots are seen at their creative, dazzling best in the magazine.”

Distinctive brand properties have helped Vogue stand out, survive and thrive. First, there are the top models that Vogue has continued to feature over the years, such as Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. I am guessing that models like Ms Moss retain a special relationship with Vogue, given the role it played in making them famous. She did her first ever Vogue cover shot when she was a youthful 19 year old.

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In addition, Vogue has worked with a select group of amazing photographers over the years, who have created some of the most iconic images of the last 100 years. These include Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, David Bailey, Mario Testino. My personal favourite isTim Walker, whose fertile imagination creates surreal storyscapes to showcase fashion, such as the one below with Helena Bonham Carter, inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

3. Refresh what made you famous

Though the print magazine remains the beating heart of Vogue, the brand is not standing still and ignoring the digital world we now live in. A replica iPad edition of Vogue was launched in December 2010. The brand also has what Stephen Quinn called “terribly elegant website”, reported here to attract two million unique users per month, with ad revenue increasing by 50% year on year.

In conclusion, Vogue is a wonderful and inspiring example of constant rejuvenation, with the leadership remembering and refreshing what made the brand famous for 100 years.