It was an article in Vogue titled ‘Walpole's Brands Of Tomorrow Share Secrets To Success' that I read the quote from Sebastian Boettcher of Privat White,
“Trying to do too much, spreading yourself too thin, jumping into things too quickly and trying to please everyone is just not possible.”
It’s one of the most important entrepreneurial lessons and unfortunately, some of us learn the hard way. In fact, without naming names (alright… me) some of us are still learning 😀
Sebastian's quote is one to remember.
Ironically, it was another Vogue related story I read (or heard) a few years ago, that involved Vogue publisher, Conde Montrose Nast.
Having purchased Vogue in 1909, Conde Nast became widely regarded as the originator of what's called the ‘class publication’, which was a departure from other publications of the time. While many publishers targeted the largest possible audience, Conde Nast focused on a particular social group or interest.
When talking about content publication at large scale… he was an early adopter of niche marketing. He focused on groups of readers by common interest, as well as income level.
While some consider the post network era (or the rise of the web) as being responsible for dragging us into the our modern niche marketing economy, Conde Nast was specializing and diversifying a century ago.
It’s true… today, niche marketing is best represented online. Focusing on and serving your target audience is fundamental, as taught by many online educational programs such as Wealthy Affiliate.
As Sebastian Boettcher said in his quote above, trying to do too much and spreading yourself too thin is not a successful strategy. Online, or offline.
But… can you be too targeted? Too focused?
Vogue Hommes Japan
Conde Montrose Nast founded the media group, Conde Naste, which is not only known for Vogue, but also it’s other publications which include Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Glamour, and House & Garden, among others…
One of those other publications was born in 2005, known as Vogue Hommes Japan, and this is where (as entrepreneurs) we can learn something. It's important to know and understand our limits. Well… not so much OUR OWN limits, but our audience’s limits.
Establishing your niche market is one thing, but it must also be profitable (although it would be nice if this were not always true).
While men’s fashion publications have exploded online in the form of editorial sites and blogs, the “relatively narrow” brand of men’s fashion has stagnated in print publication.
Vogue Hommes Japan’s fashion director Nicola Formichetti is not known for subtlety. As a member of the Haus of Gaga, he has collaborated with Lady Gaga on projects like the music video ‘Telephone' as well the infamous meat dress (which was featured on the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan).
Although Formichetti’s collaborations with Lady Gaga took his already successful career to a new level, many thought the meat dress was simply a publicity stunt which went too far.
In 2012, Conde Naste (media) announced it would be ceasing production of Vogue Hommes Japan (as well as other international versions of Vogue Hommes) in favor of GQ Style”
Vogue Hommes Japan was no more.
Formichetti was quoted in Fashionista saying, “Our goal was to push the boundaries of fashion and oh boy did we take it there!!”
Rick Genest and Nicola Formichetti
So… was Vogue Hommes too extreme? Too niche? Obviously GQ Style has a wider appeal, but is still targeted at a relatively narrow audience.
Knowing Your Niche
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Vogue Hommes Japan is a cautionary tale, but a sign-post rather.
Kevin Kelly (founding executive editor of Wired magazine) wrote a post that went viral a few years ago called One Thousand True Fans. In it he says “You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans.”
You only need one thousand.
It may sound counter-intuitive. As entrepreneurs we get caught up in numbers, thinking more is better. But, the truth is, Vogue… like Kevin Kelly, understand that a thousand real fans (those who keep coming back, who trust you, and spend their dollars) are better than a million who visit once and never return.
Vogue over the year has pushed those limits with controversial endeavors such as Filipino-Canadian Paolo Roldan’s nude photo shoot for example (pictured here in Manila, and NOT nude). But, they understand their audience.
That understanding is key.
There are more ways than nude photo shoots and meat dresses to go “too niche”.
Technology as just one example, may appeal to a wide audience, but for the most part people are interested in future tech and new gadgets. They may be interested in all things Tesla, right up until you start talking about the electric motor’s copper windings.
They’re may be debate as to whether Vogue Hommes Japan was too niche, but one this is certain… today they are not here.
To be fair, the internet has taken many print publication casualties, which begs the question…
Maybe they were all (or at least most) were too narrow for that particular medium. If there were absolutely no magazine's left, you could say the web was solely responsible. But that's not the case.
As an entrepreneur, it's critical to know where that line is. To not spread yourself to thin (while also not being too narrow). By all means…pursue your passion. But, if you’re going to stay in the game you’ll have to stay in place where your passion and audience meet.