Posted by Leah Price
April 2, 2014
Who’s been on the cover of the last five issues of Vogue? Most people couldn’t tell you, with the exception of one: The April 2014 issue. This issue features reality show maven Kim Kardashian and in-demand rapper Kanye West, sparking widespread controversy among fans of the magazine as well as pop culture followers. Audiences from both camps were not happy about the cover and voiced that opinion on multiple platforms.
The question seems to be why Vogue would put Kardashian on the cover yet from an integrated marketing perspective why wouldn’t Vogue put Kardashian on the cover? Once the word leaked of the cover it spread like wildfire online. There was media frenzy surrounding the cover which included the marketing copy about the issue and a video vignette that had images from the photo shoot. The photo shoot not only includes Kardashian and West but also their 8 month old baby, North. Kardashian’s presence on the cover is so strong it has beat out the fact that she and West are the first interracial couple on the cover and that West is the first rapper. All pointing to the reason why Anna Wintour most likely decided to put them on the cover; people will talk.
Integrated marketing for this cover included public relations and online coverage. Public relations efforts began with the announcement of the issue, appearances by Kim Kardashian and the Kardashian clan on various talk shows and the media coverage of the controversy that surrounded the cover.
Eldest sister Kourtney Kardashian even appeared on Good Morning America claiming to not know of the controversy (Chan, 2014) which fed more comments by fans and non-fans. Various spoofs were created to mock the cover that went digital including Miss Piggy and Kermit and Seth Rogen and James Franco. Celebrities like Sara Michelle Gellar chimed in to voice outrage about Vogue’s choice of cover claiming they would cancel their subscriptions.
Controversial covers are not a new scheme. Last year Rolling Stone featured a glamourized version of alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover which was banned from certain retailers and brought out a huge outcry from the people of Boston (Mirkinson, 2013). However, sales of the issue doubled from the previous year. There have been plenty of other controversial magazine covers in the recent past such as The New Yorker and the Obama’s fist bump, Michelle Bachman’s Newsweek cover with the title “The Queen of Rage,” and the Bloomberg Businessweek cover about the merger of Continental and United Airlines in a compromising position (Hoffman, 2012). Controversial marketing can not only raise awareness but can also raise sales numbers (Sodiere, 2012). In an industry where sales are on the decline, magazines have to find new ways to bring in consumers and sell their own brand (Hoffman, 2012).
Love it or hate it, people have been talking about the Kim and Kanye cover for weeks (and Vogue) and the chatter is ongoing. The more awareness for this cover the more curiosity on the article and the magazine, even for consumers who don’t like the subject. There is also anticipation of who will be on the May issue of Vogue. For a publication that has seen a decline in sales (4.4% in 2013), Vogue is looking to cultivate younger subscribers (Media Blog, 2013) through the public figures that speak to them. This Kardashian cover could be part of a larger marketing campaign to keep that audience engaged and coming back for more.
Chan (2014). Kourtney Kardashian ‘last to hear’ about reactions to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Vogue cover. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kourtney-kardashian-kim-kardashian-kanye-690612
Hoffman, M. (2012). The 10 most controversial mag covers published. Adweek. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/rolling-stone-boston-bomber-sales_n_3688127.html
Media Blog. (2013, August 30). Vogue, Tatler and other high-end women’s magazines target teen market. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/aug/30/womens-magazines-teen-market
Mirkinson, J. (2013). Rolling Stone’s Boston bomber issue sells big on newsstands. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/rolling-stone-boston-bomber-sales_n_3688127.html
Sodiere, F. (2012). 10 examples to increase sales with controversial content. Social Media Today. Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/zocreative/864841/10-examples-increase-sales-controversial-content