Following months of media hype, Edward Enninful officially started work as the editor of UK Vogue this month, becoming the first male to edit the British version of the iconic fashion magazine since it was launched in 1916.
Much of the buzz around Enninful’s appointment has circled around a series of high-profile departures from the editorial team ahead of his arrival, with fashion director Lucinda Chambers – who had worked on the publication for 36 years – plus editor-at-large Fiona Golfar, beauty director Nicola Moulton, deputy editor Emily Sheffield and managing editor Frances Bentley all heading for the door.
As they left, Enninful unveiled his own roll-call of appointments drawn from his contacts in the wider fashion world – including the unveiling of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen as contributing editors. “All inspirational and highly-regarded in their individual fields, I’m really excited to see my vision for the British Vogue team come to fruition,” Enninful said last month.
It is clear that Enninful has enacted a sweeping change of the guard – but are wholesale clear-outs like this always the best solution for a longstanding brand? Would a carefully managed, phased transition be less daunting to the dozens of support staff who work under the main figureheads?
Perhaps most importantly, does switching a core team as drastically as this risk damaging the brand’s DNA… or is this all a necessary part of refreshing its outlook for a new era?
“Senior leadership teams are custodians of a brand,” says The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper. “Brands survive longer than leadership teams – although it’s important to note that their lifespan is getting shorter all the time, in line with the shortening lives of corporations. Recently, Yale professor and McKinsey director Richard Foster said that in 1958, the average lifespan of a company was 61 years – but that’s gone down to 18 years in the modern era. That alone puts brands under greater pressure to ensure they are fit or the long haul, and a successful brand is always a trusted brand. The senior leadership team is responsible for maintaining that trust. So Vogue’s longevity will very much hinge upon Enninful’s ability to identify and build relationships with people he trusts.”
Cooper notes: “It’s a little sad that he seems to think he can only trust people he’s worked with before, rather than building relationships with those who had carried the Vogue torch for so long. I would suggest that a balance is needed here, because you’ve got to protect that brand – it’s bigger than any individual; it’s iconic and trusted. The risk of getting people onboard who don’t have that sense of organisational history is certainly higher than that of retaining the ones that do.”
She adds: “There’s a difference between a brand refresh that’s based on some new thinking, but still harnessing the powers of people who’ve contributed to its success and continuity, and a complete, top-to-toe overhaul. People don’t know what they don’t know. The new blood may come from different industries with different approaches, and technically may be very creative on their own terms. But of course, the more creative and innovative you are, the more new ideas you have – and the greater the risk that they could run aground.”
For further thoughts on branding, check out these learning resources from the Institute
Image of Vogue magazine covers courtesy of Elnur, via Shutterstock
Other resources of interest
- 18 August 2017
- 17 August 2017